'This is my community': Adopted Mackem Lynden Gooch opens up on love and passion for Sunderland at Foodbank visit
“This is my community, it’s good to be back and to be a part of this.”
The American twang isn’t one normally associated with the east end of Hendon, but the passion for the area is just as strong as any spoken with a true Mackem dialect.
Actions speak louder than words, and Lynden Gooch has proved more than many his love and commitment for the region. Seven years since he landed in the North East, it is now his community.
One of Sunderland’s greatest players, Raich Carter, was born in a long-since demolished pub, which sat just minutes away from the Sunderland Foodbank’s warehouse on Coronation Street packed with food supplies for the most vulnerable in society.
Gooch, by contrast, was born thousands of miles away in the United States - Santa Cruz, California to be precise. He feels just as at home on Wearside as any born and bred Mackem, however.
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder, alongside club captain Grant Leadbitter and under-23 players Jordan Hunter and Jack Connolly, hung on Foodbank co-ordinator Tommy Mellefont’s every word as they visited this week to see the work done in helping one of the poorest areas in the city.
And the four-time USA international provided some heartfelt insight into what Sunderland means to him.
“Grant [Leadbitter] was born and bred here, and I’ve spent a third of my life here,” explained Gooch to the Echo. “We are people who care about the club, the city and the community.”
That message will give heart to supporters who witnessed Jack Rodwell, Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji pass through the Stadium of Light doors without giving their all on the field, never mind off it.
One accusation often levelled at professional footballers is that they’re detached from fans and paid too handsomely to care about defeat and disappointment.
And who can blame Wearsiders for holding that view?
After all, they’ve experienced untold heartache since Gooch made his Black Cats first-team debut against Exeter City in the League Cup back in 2015 - including humiliating back-to-back relegations from Premier League to League One.
Last season, the club fell to defeat in the Checkatrade Trophy final against Portsmouth on penalties at Wembley and missed out on automatic promotion back to the Championship.
If that wasn’t enough Sunderland lost in the play-off final to Charlton Athletic with virtually the last kick of the game.
Gooch, however, felt last season’s disappointments just as much as any fan.
“Of course last year hurt. It was devastating. Even for the lads who had only been here for a year, it was devastating.
“You only need to be here for a small amount of time and the club and the city gets under your skin.
“Hopefully we can do better this year. You have to learn, we were one game away from achieving our goal of promotion last season.
“We can’t get too down on it, but obviously we want to go up automatically. There are little things we have to tweak, but hopefully, we can do that.”
This season, Gooch - who began his career at the Santa Cruz County Breakers before being picked up by Sunderland in 2012 - has enjoyed a positive start.
After five goals in 41 League One appearances last campaign, Gooch has already netted twice in six appearances this year but admits starting in is favoured position eludes him.
“I do like playing more centrally,” he said. “It’s hard to say what my best position is. Obviously, I’ve played a lot of my career for Sunderland on the right.”
After goals in 1-1 draws against Ipswich Town and Oxford United in the opening two league games, Gooch is just happy to help his team in any way possible.
“It’s one of those things, though, I find myself playing and getting in the team on the right.
“I’ll play anywhere, I’ll play left-back, I’ve played right wing-back and I’ve played left wing-back in pre-season.
“If there’s any way I can get on the pitch and help the team then I’ll do that.”
Gooch is a far cry from Rodwell. Moreover, the former Gateshead and Doncaster Rovers loanee is desperate to improve and understands the frustrations sometimes levelled at him.
“Last year I was consistent for about six months, then I dropped off,” Gooch explained. “So hopefully I can maintain that for the full nine or 10 months across the whole season.”
Gooch and his teammates make the trip to Accrington Stanley in League One on Saturday with added competition for places bolstering Sunderland’s squad.
Left-back Laurens De Bock, on loan from Leeds United, and centre-half Joel Lynch, who came in on a free transfer, haven’t come to the club to sit on the bench
Gooch, speaking excitedly about the new recruits and what the added competition they’ll bring, provided some insight into how the pair are settling into life on Wearside.
“The new signings are fitting in well, they’ve only been here for a short amount of time and training’s been tough with the international break,” he added.
“They’re bedding in nicely and they’ll be on the pitch soon enough.”
After a disappointing 3-0 League One defeat to Peterborough, Sunderland know they need to bounce back to re-inject positivity back into supporters. Lynden Gooch is more aware than most the impact that can have on HIS community.