Having recently completed a degree studying 20th century socialism, one might imagine Simon Mignolet joining in the applause at the demise of the politically provocative Paolo Di Canio at his former club Sunderland.
Instead, the Liverpool goalkeeper has only positive memories of his brief spell with the combustible Italian, recalling the galvanising effect the manager's arrival had at the Stadium of Light as the club fought relegation last spring.
Mignolet was also in the Sunderland side when Martin O’Neill – another coach he holds in affection – made the same short-term impact on his appointment a year earlier.
So the Belgian knows what is coming for Liverpool in the North East on Sunday, with Sunderland often finding their best form with a change of manager.
“If a new manager comes in, then every single player inside that dressing room wants to perform well and show what they are capable of. That is mostly what happened,” says Mignolet. “When a Premier League team decides to sack their manager, it is for that kind of response. From an opposition point of view you just don’t know what to expect. When it is your former team you always look closely at it. I am always having half a look over my shoulder to see how they are getting on.
“I still know a lot of players and other people at the club. I was there for three years and it is never nice to see them struggle. You feel for the lads because you know they’re trying to do the best but it’s obviously not going for them and also for the people around the place. If you’re a masseur or a physio or in any job, if you’re there and it goes against you, then it’s obviously not a nice environment to be in.”
Di Canio’s sacking after a players’ revolt suggested Mignolet left a flammable environment when he moved to Anfield, but he says the tension must have rapidly developed after he left.
“I had a good relationship with him. I never had a bust-up with him,” he says. “The first two weeks when he came he observed a lot. After a couple of days he changed a few little things and we had two massive results against Newcastle and Everton and got ourselves safe for the next season. So for me he was a good manager to work with.”
Life at Liverpool seems serene by comparison, although there is always a gentle simmering at Anfield when you lose consecutive games.
While questions are starting to be asked about the quality of some of Liverpool’s signings, Mignolet is unequivocally the most successful of the summer.
“He will be the best signing of the season and worth 10 points this year,” a senior Liverpool figure said once the £9 million deal had been struck. The confidence, thus far, is justified. Mignolet can already claim a heavy assist in six of the 10 the club’s 10 points to date.
It is to his credit that, after a few days of anxiety when Pepe Reina was loaned to Napoli to enable Mignolet to be number one, no one has since queried the merits of the decision.
It is easy to see why Mignolet provokes such certainty that he will succeed, given his quietly authoritative manner and studiousness on and off the park. There cannot be many modern players who have completed a degree while becoming an established international.
“I finished the degree last season. It’s political science,” explained Mignolet. “I don’t really like to say it’s politics, everybody’s going to say ‘he’s going to be a politician’, which is not true.”
So plenty of theoretical discourses with Di Canio, then? “No, no, no! I’m obviously interested in history, that kind of stuff, but I’m never going to be a politician after my football career. I started the course when I was in Belgium. My parents wanted me to have something behind me in case something went wrong, say an injury. When I arrived in England I had to finish six more courses.”
Mignolet has made an equally impressive start to his latest assignment – joining the ranks of Liverpool’s great goalkeepers.