After receiving a lot of criticism for his performances this season, Lynden Gooch’s display against Cambridge on Saturday was worthy of high praise.
The big question afterwards, therefore, was whether the American-born academy product had done enough during the game to make a case for a new contract, with his current deal set to expire at the end of the season.
Admittedly, one game in isolation should never justify giving a player a new deal, but I think Gooch’s performance against Cambridge highlighted plenty of reasons as to why he could be in line for an extended stay at the Stadium of Light.
As he demonstrated to devastating effect against Mark Bonner’s team, Gooch possesses all of the attributes required to be successful at this level, and possibly in the Championship, too. At his best, he can really put an opposition defence on alert, and can be one of the focal points of Sunderland's attacking play.
He has the pace to go past full backs, the strength to hold off defenders, the ability to turn out of tight spaces, and vision to pick out a pass, a final ball, or get a shot off.
On Saturday, he completed forty one passes, and whipped some delicious crosses into the box en-route to picking up an assist. That was the version of Gooch we all want to see: positive in his play and willing to drive at the opposition.
On many occasions, Gooch has also demonstrated impressive versatility, and a willingness to slot into different positions, depending on the scenario.
This season alone, under Lee Johnson and Alex Neil, he has played in virtually every position on the pitch, except for in central defence or between the sticks. He has often made it clear that his preferred position is at the top of the pitch, but he has also shown that, first and foremost, he remains a team player.
Whether he plays as a wing-back, a wide forward, or in a more central position, you can be certain that, similar to Luke O’Nien, Gooch will always give 100%, and his work rate does seem to be valued by Neil.
Another point to consider is the fact that Gooch has become a Sunderland stalwart, having joined the club’s youth setup back in 2012.
During a decade of service on Wearside, he has gone through experiences that have elevated him to the status of senior pro. He has tasted the highs and lows as a footballer, having played in the top flight, as well as in England’s third tier. That experience could be vital moving forward.
There is no doubt that Gooch has been the subject of a lot of frustration and disagreements among the fanbase as to his level of talent, as well as where he fits into the team.
One thing, however, is absolutely clear: he’s stood by the club that gave him his senior debut and helped to develop him into an international squad member.
In other words, he’s one of our own, and for that reason, as well as the many others listed, I think he deserves to be offered a new contract this summer.
It is not solely about his performance against Cambridge, but that game highlighted all of the best aspects of Gooch’s game, and I believe that he deserves to be given the chance to help this club back to where we all want it to be.
He deserves to be a part of a team that rights the wrongs of seasons past, and he certainly deserves the chance to put pen to paper, and to sign a new deal.