Let it be known that football fans are a fickle bunch. For all the talk of how crucial their role in making this the best game in the world is, their ability to make or break a player's career cannot be understated. Liverpool fans, in particular, pride themselves on being some of the loudest, smartest and most respectful around, but if they had their way, we wouldn't be debating the madness of shipping Lucas Leiva out to Inter Milan and Jordan Henderson certainly wouldn't have found himself the heir apparent to Steven Gerrard's throne. To that end, those same fans can somehow justify the deplorable actions of their superstar striker — so long as he keeps banging in the goals — but I'm not here to talk about the past. Rather, I'm fixated on the here and now, and how Simon Mignolet's Liverpool career is effectively over thanks, in part, to the sentiments of those same fans.
That is not to say that the Belgian is the perfect goalkeeper; far from it. His distribution leaves a lot to be desired and even the most stoic of spectators can be left stricken with nail-biting apprehension by his aerial command, but don't allow yourself to undersell his qualities, and they are considerable, in particular his uncanny knack for pulling out impossible — and, at times, vital — saves. In his maiden campaign and even in glimpses this season, Mignolet has unquestionably rescued more points than he's lost us, so what has he done so wrong to warrant such resentment? Not a lot, as far as I'm concerned.
The criticism stems back as far as Liverpool's trip to the Etihad last season, when Alvaro Negredo's mishit shot caught the (until then) reliable stopper flat footed. From that moment on, Mignolet was playing under a microscope. The doubts began to fester, but somewhere along the way, those concerns were put on the back burner as Liverpool stormed their way to a Premier League runners up place. Things haven't been quite as rosy this season, and with fans baying for blood, Mignolet has found himself at the mercy of a concerned Kop.
In truth, the elusive transfer committee should surely have been aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their investment. The elite shot stopper had never demonstrated the typical hallmarks of a sweeper keeper in his time at Sunderland or before, and their decision making must come under scrutiny before the fingers are pointed at the man they chose to replace the outgoing Pepe Reina. For his part, Mignolet had acquitted himself well until very recently, but now, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, it all appears too much for him to bear. If the criticism wasn't entirely justified before, it probably is now, but as a fan, there is nothing more disheartening to hear than the ironic cheers following each goal kick. Are we not supposed to be better than that?
Perhaps Simon Mignolet was destined to fail at Liverpool from the start, but there is nothing reassuring about the way it has since played out. There doesn't appear to be a way back for the 26-year-old following his crisis of confidence, so let this serve as an unfortunate reminder that for all the good we do as fans, our own fictitious narratives can quite easily form a basis in reality. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that we have a duty to look out for our own. This is Liverpool Football Club; we're supposed to be better than that.