'I was Phil Bardsley’s boot boy': Why Lynden Gooch is enjoying his new Sunderland role despite previous claim
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Gooch has spent over a decade at the club and signed a new two-year contract in the summer, yet his responsibilities have changed in recent months.
The 26-year-old has started every Championship fixture this season but continued to operate on the right side of defence, as he did towards the end of the last campaign.
And after facing scrutiny about his defensive attributes, Gooch says he has worked hard on that part of his game.
“I’m playing more as a defender working on defending a lot one-vs-one and the way the manager wants me to play,” Gooch told the Echo following Sunderland’s goalless draw against Blackpool. “I’ve taken to the role and really enjoyed it and am all in on it.
“Obviously in the past I have wanted to play further forward but at this stage of my career this is probably a settled position for me and that’s what I’ve wanted, I’ve wanted to play in a position and know my role and I’m doing that.
“Hopefully I can just keep playing and keep doing well for the team.”
Gooch’s attacking qualities have also meant he is able to provide an offensive outlet on the right, where he has been able to link up with winger Patrick Roberts.
“Nowadays full-backs are really attacking,” Gooch added. “There are fantastic players who are playing in the Premier League, Trent (Alexander-Arnold), Reece James, players like that who are really good on the ball.
“I take pride in trying to help the team build from the back and I think my passing has improved as well coming out from the back and starting attacks.
“I’ve had plenty of players here who have played that role. I was Phil Bardsley’s boot boy so I know what he was all about.”
Sunderland have also had to alter their tactics in recent weeks while playing without a recognised striker, following injuries to Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms.
“It’s a bit different, obviously with Ross or Ellis sometimes you have that out ball in behind and at the minute we have a lot of players who want the ball to feet,” admitted Gooch.
“It’s trying to find the balance of people who want to stretch the game for us as well.
“We’ve got a lot of technical players who want to get the ball down and play so there’s no point in hoofing the ball forward when you’ve got loads of little number 10s so to speak.
“It’s a different way of playing but we’ve got those players to do that.”
Playing with smaller and more technical players does bring disadvantages, though, especially from set-pieces.
Still, Gooch takes pride that Sunderland have managed to keep back-to-back clean sheets.
“I think I was marking their captain who was about 6 ft 4,” admitted Gooch when reflecting on the Blackpool stalemate. “You have to do your best to try and be aggressive and have that pride to keep the ball out of the net.
“I think that side, considering how small we are as a team, at the minute is really good.”