If you’d taken a straw poll of Sunderland supporters back at the end of March, asking whether or not you’d give Lynden Gooch a new contract, I suspect the resounding answer would have been ‘no’.
It’s certainly the way I’d have voted.
In truth, I’ve always had a lot of time for the lad as a footballer – however, I felt we’d got to a stage where it was no longer reasonable to hold onto him for his ‘potential’, and if he hadn’t done it yet it was unlikely he’d do it here at all.
He’d shown that potential in glimpses over the past five or six seasons, but rarely had it transpired into anything of any consequence or, indeed, significance.
He’d flatter to deceive, he’d follow one good game up with a string of indifferent displays, and with the signings of Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, and the added competition from the likes of Broadhead, Pritchard and Dajaku, it looked to me like his days were numbered.
However, over the past six weeks or so, something has clicked.
It goes back to that game at home to Cambridge, during which he turned into prime Nicky Summerbee. He kept it simple, had their full-back on toast, and set up chance after chance.
It was a superb display and one that hinted that a new deal may be worthwhile considering, after all.
However, as a football club, we’ve got to be more strategic, more level-headed than that, surely?
We’ve got to base decisions on the evidence over the season. Over the seasons. We’ve been lumbered with players on good contracts who cannot deliver the goods for us, and we’ve paid the price.
So what makes Gooch any different?
Subjectively, however, he’s got something that you can’t buy, that you can’t engineer, train or replicate.
He’s got the club coursing through his veins.
We’ve all seen over the past few weeks just how much SAFC means to him. From the pictures of his young child being hoisted up in the air to his tears of joy at Wembley.
We want players to feel like this.
We want players to embrace our club like this.
We want players to make it their club.
Over the past decade and a half he’s been involved with SAFC, Lynden Gooch has done just that.
And it’s important. It’s one of those irrational qualities that is only genuinely meaningful in sport.
It’s crucial we have people on the staff of the football club – on and off the pitch – that care about the club; genuinely care. People who will remind people of the standards that need to be upheld, tell others of the history of the place.
Importantly, people who know how to handle the crowd embrace it and channel it for the collective good.
And for that reason, I’d love to see Lynden Gooch rewarded with a new contract at Sunderland. He gets it. He gets us. And that cannot be underestimated.
Of course, you can’t just operate on sentimentality. However, there’s got to be some footballing logic there too. And, for all his performance against Cambridge was excellent, it could well be that the role he’s played out of necessity in more recent weeks – right-back – could be where he begins to nail down a regular place.
He’s fast, tenacious and disciplined. It’s clear he’s a player Alex Neil trusts, and with a bit of work defensively, he could well turn into a very good full back for us. Is that where he sees himself? Who knows – but I wouldn’t be disappointed if we took a chance on him developing in that position.
He’s found his home off the field, and he could well find a home on the field there.
When asked about his future post-game, he was very pragmatic. If this was it, he said, what a way to go out.
I don’t think it should be it.
Whatever happens over the coming days – the retained list should be announced this week – I think it’s safe to say that Lynden Gooch has cemented his place into the hearts of supporters and the folklore of SAFC.
And, as sentimental as it maybe is, I’d like to see him get the opportunity to write a few more chapters of his SAFC story over the next couple of seasons.