Let’s be honest: we’ve all known for some time that what’s happening now is simply part of Sunderland’s new direction of travel.
Departures, ideally for the highest fees possible, were coming at some stage, and as the transfer deadline draws ever nearer, perhaps there’s a little bit of room for reflection as the decks are cleared to hopefully make way for some new arrivals.
However, is it strange that as I write this, I feel slightly sadder at the prospect of Lynden Gooch leaving Sunderland for Stoke City than I do about Ross Stewart swapping the north east for the south coast and a new start at Southampton?
Perhaps I shouldn’t.
Perhaps I should simply remove the emotion from it and objectively declare that Gooch simply wasn’t good enough for this level, that he wasn’t likely to progress any further at the Stadium of Light, and therefore a move to the Potteries and a reunion with Alex Neil is the best option all round.
After all, Stewart is a superior footballer and he would’ve been a first choice pick when fit, whereas Gooch, for all his versatility and adaptability, wasn’t likely to nail down a starting berth this season in the face of both Trai Hume and Niall Huggins potentially vying for a place in the team.
Nevertheless, perhaps it stems from the fact that few Sunderland players of recent times, with the exception of Luke O’Nien, have been on the kind of rollercoaster journey in red and white that our very own ‘Californian Messi’ has undertaken. As a result of that, it’s clear that a genuine affinity has been forged.
Some players might leave the club with a hollow statement about how much they ‘loved’ their time here and how brilliant the supporters were, but in Gooch’s case, I think it’s true. His love for Sunderland is genuine, and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s safe to say that, ever since his first team debut, the American has been at the heart of some of the most turbulent periods in our recent history, but he also played a role in our rebirth, and last May’s Wembley triumph is something he’ll doubtless never forget.
He broke through during the dying embers of the Premier League years, endured the misery of the 2017/2018 season which ended with a second successive relegation, and then he found himself as one of our central figures as we rebuilt and attempted to haul ourselves out of the League One mire.
On his day, Gooch was a useful player to call upon, even if he had the unerring ability to frustrate the life out of supporters on a regular basis.
With a good engine and a work rate and attitude to match, he would always put a shift in and wouldn’t shirk his defensive duties, either. Like O’Nien, he remained a key part of the plans of several managers and head coaches, despite seemingly flirting with the exit on a number of occasions before eventually remaining on Wearside.
Going forward, he could be erratic and guilty of poor decision making at times, but when he got it right, as he did during the home demolition of Cambridge during the 2021/2022 season, he was a potent attacking weapon for us.
Perhaps the most abiding recent image of Gooch will be of his audacious chipped finish at Bramall Lane last season, a goal of immense quality that gave us something positive to take away from a frustrating game against Sheffield United.
That’s what he’s capable of, and Stoke are certainly getting a solid enough addition for their money.
There’s no doubt that times are changing at the Stadium of Light.
With a brilliant striker and a club stalwart both heading for the exit, big decisions are clearly being made by the hierarchy, and there might be choppy waters ahead as we continue to press on, albeit without the services of a potent goalscorer and a man who you could always rely on to do a solid enough job.
Those discussions will doubtless rumble on, but in the meantime, as he prepares to swap one red and white shirt for another one, there’s little else to say besides “Good luck, Lynden, and thanks for everything you did in a Sunderland shirt”.