Simon Mignolet: “I learned a lot” during short benching as Liverpool’s No. 1 GK

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It’s been a trying season for Simon Mignolet.

First, the big Belgian goalkeeper was made to watch his fellow countryman — and five years his junior — Thibaut Courtois start and play every minute for their country at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Then, once he returned to Liverpool for the 2014-15 Premier League season, Mignolet, 27, got off to a poor start and was ultimately dropped from his place as Liverpool’s No. 1 goalkeeper.

[ MORE: Liverpool beat Newcastle, 2-0, to boost their top-four chase ]

Mignolet’s time as the No. 2 to Brad Jones was short-lived, though, as the Australian lasted just two full league games before succumbing to an injury in his third Premier League start. In stepped Mignolet again, and he’s never looked back since, racking eight clean sheets since his return on Dec. 26 and anchoring what is now the sixth-stingiest defense in the league this season.

Following Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Monday, Mignolet spoke to the NBC broadcast team (above video) and revealed just how influential that time away from the first team was for him.

“Obviously it’s never nice when you go out of the team, but from day one I wanted to make sure that my time out of the team was as short as possible, and the only thing I could do was work hard and make sure I kept improving.

“When the chance came along, I was ready for it. Unfortunately for Brad, he got injured, so it was a short space of time. I learned a lot through it and I think I’ve come through it a better ‘keeper.”

As for a top-four finish being within reach for Liverpool this season? Mignolet is taking a wait-and-see approach, just like his manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The message for us is, until the end of the season just play every single game, take every game as it comes and make sure we keep doing our jobs, then we’ll see where it ends up at the end of the season. There’s a lot to play for. … There’s no point in looking too far ahead of us. We just take every game as it comes and we’ll try to perform the best we can in the next game.”