Lynden Gooch gives this honest verdict on his Sunderland season so far and the defining weeks ahead
The conversation, unsurprisingly, turns to the prospect of a(nother) possible date of destiny at Wembley, and the dream of being the player to score that goal.
Lynden Gooch has of course been there before, albeit behind closed doors, albeit when the prize at stake was very different.
Throughout, Gooch also points out that there is a long way to go yet. Though their fate is firmly in their own hands, with nine days to go Sunderland sit just outside the top six.
He has seen just about everything in a now long and proud association with Sunderland, so buys entirely into the Alex Neil mantra of taking one game at a time.
Besides, “I’ll take any goal at the moment,” he jokes.
It has been a turbulent campaign, both for club and for player.
As has so often been the case over the last two years injuries have pushed the 26-year-old into unfamiliar positions, invariably further away from the opposition goal.
Gooch understands his contributions are measured in goals and in assists, but the reality is that for much of this campaign he has first and foremost been a part of the team’s defensive unit.
It is to Gooch’s credit, and a reflection of his dedication to try to haul his club out of League One, that his endeavour has made it work.
“I'd say it's been a difficult season [for me],” Gooch told The Echo.
“I've had a lot of games at wing back and full back, and obviously I've grown up playing in central areas, wanting to score goals and create goals.
“It's not been easy, it's been difficult at times but you just try to do your absolute best for your team, for your manager and for the club.
“At the end of the day, it's your job to help both the team and the manager and that's what I've tried to do.”
Sunderland’s defensive record under Alex Neil has improved significantly and Gooch is one of a number who, operating out of position to cover for some key deficiencies in the squad, can take some credit.
“I think ultimately I've played in these positions because managers trust me [to do a job there], they know that I'm going to work hard for the team, that I'll get forward when I can but do my bit for the team going back the other way,” he said.
“I'm obviously very happy to do that side of the game, I've been at the club a long time, it's the club I support and it's the club that I love, so I think managers know that when they put me there they are going to get that desire from me.
“I'll always have that desire to play anywhere if it means I can help this club and this team.
“Ultimately it's been a season where we've had a lot of injuries, which is why I ended up [moving back] to begin with,” he added.
“Managers then can often see what you bring in those roles, and so you might play there more often.
“It can be frustrating at times but ultimately, it's a good thing.”
Gooch is one of many senior players whose long-term future is uncertain but when Neil arrived he told all to park any talk of all that, to focus on the here and now and the goal still ultimately within reach.
There is a quiet confidence in a side that has now proven itself difficult to beat, and an understanding of how much work is still left to do.
“We've obviously well drilled, and I think everyone knows they're going to get a chance to play at the moment,” Gooch said.
“I don't think we've played the same team in back-to-back games, so you know that there's always going to be another opportunity and you also know that if you're in the team, you'll come out if you're not playing well.
“The manager is not scared to do that.
“When players have come in they've done well, so we feel like we've got a good depth to our squad, and that the lads are ready for what's ahead.
“We know that we can't get ahead of ourselves and we've not done that recently, even if you win a couple of good games it can soon turn. I think we all know that, and we've seen it here in recent seasons.
“It's such a cliche but I always look at the way Jordan Henderson handles it at Liverpool, take each game as it comes. If you won't win the next one, the ones after might not matter too much.
“It's one step at a time. Saturday is the first step for us, and then take it from there.
“The manager said it to us this morning, it's up to us whether we have a successful season now. We have three games to put ourselves in a good position, and hopefully we can get over the line and do that.”
There aren’t many who it would mean more to: “We've got three massive games ahead and we probably need to win all three because it's that tight.
“We know what we need to do in that sense - it's crystal clear for us.
“This is the time where it matters most - to the supporters and to us as well.
“We want to have that promotion on our CV, it's the stuff you will look back on at the end of our career. Hopefully we can get back in the play-off spots by the end of next week and be successful this time around.
“Everyone here craves that promotion, it's what we all want. Hopefully we can go and do it.”
Where Gooch will be playing, you can never be quite sure.
That he will leave it all out there on the pitch for Sunderland, you can be sure.