Lynden Gooch on Sunderland's fresh start and his Premier League dreams
On August 13, 2016, Sunderland midfielder Lyden Gooch achieved his childhood dream.
The Black Cats were taking on Pep Guardiola's Manchester City side, in the Spaniard's first competitive game as a manager in England, when Gooch came off the bench to make his Premier League debut at the Etihad Stadium.
The 22-year-old, who was born in Santa Cruz, California but moved to England at the age of ten, always fantasied about playing in England's top-flight - and is hugely grateful to Sunderland for helping achieve that.
"Every school holiday I was back and forth, at that age, all I ever did was watch Premier League football with my dad," Gooch, who signed a full-time deal with the Black Cats at the age of 16. told MetroNews.
"Obviously it was a massive club and when I saw the facilities, I was in awe of the place. I knew as soon as I came here that it was what I wanted to do and this was the step I wanted to take — to be a professional footballer in England.
‘It wasn’t really a culture shock. I grew up with an English dad and an Irish mother. I was used to that sort of surroundings as I would come as a young kid, back and forth, to see family. I wasn’t your normal kid from California."
Since the Manchester City game, which Sunderland lost 2-1, things have turned into a bit of a nightmare for the Wearsiders, who have suffered back-to-back relegations to League One.
Gooch was part of a side which failed to win at home for 22 games, a Football League record, and the midfielder admits it wasn't easy.
"I made my debut at Manchester City which was massive, especially as it was Pep Guardiola’s first game," said Gooch.
"I started the first six or seven games that season but a few results didn’t go our way and that was the story of the season for us.’"
‘I don’t think many people thought we would have suffered back-to-back relegations."
Even so, Gooch has been a revelation in League One this campaign, and is enjoying his best season to date in a red and white shirt.
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In his 14 appearances this term, the USA international has scored three goals and provided seven assists under new manager Jack Ross.
Gooch is now one of the first names on the team sheet at the Stadium of Light, and has embraced the club's fresh start.
"Maybe they (back-to-back relegations) are the best thing that happened to the club as they enabled it to rebuild," said Gooch.
"We now have a really good group of players and a good coaching staff."
"I’m enjoying it, we’re winning and it’s nice to see everyone with a smile on their face coming to work."
After reaching the Premier League so early in his career, Gooch is determined to return to the top-flight.
He believes he can get there with Sunderland - and they have the right players to climb back up the divisions.
"We don’t want to be [in League One] but will take it one step at a time, enjoy the season and hopefully get promoted.
"We have a really young squad but with a balance with some really big characters like Catts (Lee Cattermole) and Glenn Loovens and Jon McLaughlin.
"It’s not so much about youth and experience, it’s about getting a good blend of the right characters who want to work hard for each other."