Back in mid-December, when Brendan Rodgers was being pressed on whether Brad Jones had emerged as his first-choice goalkeeper on the back of some less than inspiring showings from Simon Mignolet, the Anfield exit door appeared to be swinging open in front of the latter.
“I said to Simon it was for an indefinite period,” said Rodgers when asked how long his £9 million Belgian shot-stopper should expect to remain on the sidelines.
As fate would have it, Mignolet would be drafted back into the fold before the end of the month, with an unfortunate injury suffered by Jones at Burnley on Boxing Day leaving the Reds with little choice but to bury the hatchet and resort to Plan A.
There must have been some at that stage – Mignolet included – that wondered how long his second coming would last, especially with the winter transfer window looming large on the horizon.
To his immense credit, the 27-year-old – who has now been named the club’s Player of the Year – has used a humbling period on the bench as a wake-up call and has offered the kind of positive response Rodgers would have been hoping for, but probably doubted he would get.
Rather than sulk, take his eye off the ball – quite literally – and start pondering his next move, Mignolet has taken it upon himself to convince his critics, his manager and the supporters of his current employers that he remains the most logical long-term solution between the sticks at Anfield.
— Simon Mignolet (@SMignolet) May 11, 2015
In many ways, he could not have done any more in that particular pursuit, with it difficult to point the finger of blame in his direction as Liverpool’s season has unravelled around them.
Throughout their strong start to 2015, with a top-four charge looking to be very much on the cards, Mignolet provided the most reliable of last lines of defence – with seven clean sheets secured in the Premier League from the start of January up until a decisive meeting with Manchester United on Merseyside in late March.
Only two shut-outs have been added to his tally since then, but he remains very much in the race for the 2014/15 Golden Glove award.
As things stand, Mignolet forms part of a four-way tie at the top of that table, alongside Manchester City’s Joe Hart, Southampton’s Fraser Forster and Swansea City’s Lukasz Fabianski.
Liverpool travel to Stoke City on the final weekend of the campaign, and another blank there – in a contest Premier League betting markets have the Reds at 11/10 at the time of writing to prevail in – could see him to a prestigious prize and just reward for his fine individual efforts in what has been a testing season.
Even if he were to miss out on the goalkeeping crown, there is still plenty of weight behind an argument that suggests Rodgers should be looking to spend any money made available to him this summer away from the first name on the team sheet.
Mignolet has wobbled at times this season, but has shown himself to be in possession of the ability and character required to be a success at Anfield and there are quite clearly other areas of the side that need to be addressed and reinforced before attention is spun back in the direction of his future.