Lynden Gooch reveals the key factor behind Sunderland's impressive start
Lynden Gooch believes one of the key factors behind Sunderland's impressive start is the new-found team spirit and chemistry Jack Ross has helped forge.
Ahead of Friday’s loan deadline, Ross has so far added 12 new faces to the Sunderland squad as part of a complete overhaul.
Yet despite the huge revamp, Gooch says the new players have settled quickly, with the squad enjoying each other’s company and have become good pals off the pitch too - admitting it hasn’t been like that “for years”.
Sunderland have enjoyed an unbeaten start to life in the third tier following successive relegations, with the Black Cats targeting instant promotion back to the Championship.
The 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon saw Sunderland climb to second, coming from behind for the third time this campaign.
The strong team spirit is there to see and Gooch says it shouldn’t be underestimated just how important that is.
“Of course,” said Gooch when it was put to him that the spirit was better than in previous seasons.
“We’re a very young team but we’ve got new players and it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time.
“There’s a great chemistry there, we’re good mates off the pitch, having a laugh.
“It hasn’t been like that for years. It’s massive and you can see it’s really paying off on the pitch.”
It certainly did at Kingsmeadow on Saturday.
Sunderland were second best after falling behind to Joe Pigott’s ninth-minute opener but Ross’ new-look resilient side fought back strongly, a Lee Cattermole double sealing victory.
Sunderland are the biggest club in the division and with that comes added pressure. So far, they have proved up to the challenge.
Gooch added: “It shows we’ve got grit about us.
“I think some might have said away from home we were going to struggle and this and that. We knew we were going to have a tough game at Wimbledon, there’s no doubt about that.
“We had a tough start but we stuck together and dug it out.
“We’re the biggest team in this division, there’s no doubt about that.
“Of course every team’s going to want to try and roll us over if they can but we dug deep and even the lads off the bench were terrific.
“We’ve just got to stick together and keep going.”
It was the third time in five games that Sunderland have fallen behind only to go on and win the game, Gooch’s injury-time winner against Charlton Athletic on the opening day helped set the tone.
“We said that at half-time – we probably didn’t play great against Charlton in the first half but we still came back and won the game – we did that at Wimbledon too,” added Gooch.
“We can take a lot of great things from that. We stuck together, the first half wasn’t great, but we dug deep and we were magnificent in the second half.”
And the good news for Sunderland is that ahead of the visit of Oxford United on Saturday, the squad will be boosted by the return to training of Charlie Wyke and Tom Flanagan.
Gooch added: “We’ve got a big squad as soon as everyone’s back fit.
“Dylan [McGeouch] was great when he came on at Wimbledon, Alim [Ozturk] put in a great performance when he came on for Glenn [Loovens].
“We’re going to need everyone, we know that. We’ve just got to stick together.”