The 2017/18 campaign was hugely disappointing for almost everyone involved with Sunderland AFC. However, the youth players who were often thrown in at the deep end have given us performances to be proud of. One of these players who has pledged to stick around next season is Lynden Gooch, and this should only be seen as positive for all parties involved.
It feels like a very long time since Gooch made his debut in a cup win against Exeter City in 2015. Dick Advocaat sent him on with just over half an hour to go in the 6-3 win, but that was the last we could see of him that campaign. For all of his faults, it was David Moyes who gave Gooch his full debut on the opening day of the season against Manchester City.
Despite the season ending in relegation from the Premier League it was a campaign to remember for the American. Neither Advocaat nor Moyes were willing to take a risk and play Gooch on a regular basis, but instead persisted with first team players whom continued to fail. He had it even worse under Sam Allardyce, but his time well and truly came in the Championship - despite not always being played by Simon Grayson or Chris Coleman either.
Gooch was always seen as a player on the fringes of the squad. Despite his impressive form for our youth and reserve teams, he was never able to convince managers to give him a chance. Before last season kicked off, Gooch was labelled by many as one of the squad destined to go reach the very top, owing to the fact he earned his full-debut for the USMNT aged just 21-years-old - three months after his full Premier League bow.
Last season, however, Gooch quite literally grabbed the bull by the horns. He was unselected for large swathes, but turned it on in style late-on in the campaign. The Californian native ended the season with two goals from fourteen games in all competitions, but it is his work rate, effectiveness on the ball and energy which really stood out. Furthermore, Gooch has proven to be versatile, able to operate in any attacking position from central midfield, out wide, in the hole or as a false nine.
Throughout the season he put in some fantastic performances. Towards the end of the campaign he paired up well in our midfield with George Honeyman, and if these two and Paddy McNair all remain at the club and repeat their performances next season then we should be a team to be feared.
Gooch has shown all of his previous managers what he could have brought to the side in the past few seasons. He has gone from a raw youngster with plenty of potential to a player who is an important member of our squad.
The confirmation that Gooch wants to stay on Wearside next season is a hugely important factor. It may have been one of the worst campaigns in the history of the club, but the success of our youth graduates has been a rare bright spark.
It is of further importance that Gooch signs on further than the one year - he is the sort of player we need to build a team around and hopefully he will be a major part of the rebuilding process which is about to begin on Wearside.
His enthusiastic performances for his club have earned the midfielder a deserved call up to the United States national side for their friendly matches against Bolivia, Ireland and France. It’s a shame he couldn’t have joined his former Sunderland team mate Jordan Henderson at the World Cup, but if he can continue this form he will surely be given a chance to help his country to the next tournament in four years time. For now, here’s hoping that Gooch is raring to go for a campaign as one of Sunderland’s main men.