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Prize guy Simon Mignolet keeps getting better

SIMON Mignolet has been named the North East’s top footballer of 2012, but Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill says the goalkeeper will continue to strive for self-improvement.

Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet

SIMON Mignolet has been named the North East’s top footballer of 2012, but Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill says the goalkeeper will continue to strive for self-improvement.

Quite apart from his innate desire to get better, the 24-year-old also has Keiren Westwood and Thibaut Courtois pushing him.

Former Carlisle United player Westwood is the Republic of Ireland’s first-choice and surely one of the best back-up goalkeepers in the Premier League.

Mignolet has undoubtedly won that battle, but usurping Chelsea’s Courtois (on loan at Atlético Madrid) as Belgium’s No.1 is proving more challenging.

“He really wants to be good,” O’Neill said of the player who edged out Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa and Tim Krul for the North East Football Writers’ Association’s player of the year award.

“His attitude is fantastic. He’s always striving to improve, even on some days off he wants to come in and do the work.

“That determination to be really good at his trade really has shone through.

“We all know there’s quite a difference between having the determination to do it and allying that with the ability but he’s improving all the time. He’s in severe competition with the big Belgian lad (Courtois) to be the (national) No.1 as well.

“With Belgium having such a very fine side that would be big for him.

“He’s been brilliant and it’s a really great honour for him to win that award. Considering the season Newcastle had, that’s great.”

Journalists voted on performances over the course of 2012 and Mignolet’s consistency was enough to squeeze past playmaker Ben Arfa.

Mignolet said: “It is always a good thing to win individual awards as a footballer. There are a lot of big names on the trophy, including some top goalkeepers, and it is an honour for me to win this award.

“I could not be more pleased to be among them at the age of 24.”

Goalkeepers fared well this year, with Middlesbrough’s Team GB Olympic goalkeeper Jason Steele gaining the nod as young player.

Mignolet will be presented with his award at the North East Football Writers’ Association’s annual dinner at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham, on February 24. For ticket details contact Claire Stephen on 0191 375 3080 or ClaireStephen@ramsi dehallhotel.co.uk.

 

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