In a period of our history when some players appeared desperate to leave and poor attitudes have been reflected both on and off the pitch, one player has always stood out.
Lynden Gooch, having swapped California for the golden sands of our very own Seaburn, has remained a bright light of potential in a team that has so often struggled - this move to Wearside is one Gooch also speaks fondly of:
A lot of people say bad things about it to me but I don’t understand why; the north-east’s very underrated. For a start it’s so beautiful – you’ve got great countryside and great beaches... I’d love to stay a Sunderland player for a very long time. I’ve been here since I was ten and this club has given me an awful lot. I’ve made friendships I’ll have forever.
How refreshing it is to see a young player rising through the Sunderland ranks, developing a genuine connection to the area and the football club in the process? It certainty represents a prime example for our other academy players to follow as Steward Donald aims to rebuild the culture behind the club - and speaking on the latest Roker Rapport Podcast, he argued:
We’ve got to get them [kids] connected to this football club, connected to the manager, connected to the fans rather than perceiving it as somewhere where they just to to play football, so when other opportunities come along, they actually feel part of something.
Gooch, having trained with Sunderland since the age of ten, has a real history with the club that perhaps is often forgotten. He made his professional debut back in 2015 and was thrust into the limelight during the 2016-17 season by David Moyes where he became a surprise addition in the season’s opener against Manchester City.
Displaying endless amounts of energy and a glow of potential he was marked down as one to watch for the future and also earned a full international debut for USA in 1-1 draw with New Zealand in October 2016.
Despite thereafter remaining on the fringes of the team, Gooch showed real character and determination to be able to bounce back into the first team last season as he put in some exceptional performances in an otherwise disappointing season.
His first ever goal for Sunderland last year away to Carlisle in the League cup was a huge moment for the American born Mackem. Speaking after the game, Gooch reflected on the goal:
I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was a ten-year-old boy coming over on trial.
To finally get that goal was amazing.
Gooch reflects the attitude and passion we need at the club, he also brings a touch of quality that Sunderland need going forward. A solid pre-season thus far including goals at Grimsby and St. Mirren and Gooch looks set to have his best season yet.
His adaptability to play anywhere in the midfield, on either flank or behind a striker, will make him an invaluable asset in a team that - currently - lacks depth. Moreover, in a league where sheer physicality may prove to be more important than technical ability, Gooch has a physical presence (in spite of his height) that should easily enable him to adapt to life down in League One.
Above all, it is his skill, pace and ability to run at defenders that is an exciting prospect for the upcoming season. Still young at twenty-two and with a full season ahead - be prepared for Gooch to only get better and become a real attacking highlight of our team.
As the rebuild of Sunderland continues, coupled with a changing attitude behind the scenes, we could do a lot worse than to build a team around this enthusiastic and bright player.