The 26-year-old was possibly being a little harsh, yet, with seven league assists and no goals, the 2021/22 campaign was by far his least productive (in terms of goalscoring contributions) since the Black Cats’ relegation to the third tier.
As Gooch explained, that was partly down to the numerous positions he was asked to play. After starting as a right winger against Wigan on the opening day, the American operated as wing-back and on the left and right of a back four.
At times the wideman’s place in the side was heavily scrutinised. For a player who has been at Sunderland for ten years and experienced the club’s slide into the third tier, perhaps more was expected.
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Yet Gooch’s close ties with Sunderland, after 10 years at the club, were evident following the Black Cats’ promotion from League One.
“I have given everything for the club in my ten years as a pro,” he said after last month’s 2-0 win over Wycombe in the play-off final.
And now, after a few weeks of uncertainty, Gooch has signed a new two-year deal on Wearside. The reaction from most supporters was extremely positive.
Gooch’s attacking stats may have decreased during the 2021/22 season, yet his versatility and durability were major assets.
In total the wideman racked up 3218 minutes in League One, with only Ross Stewart and Carl Winchester receiving more game time for the Black Cats.
And while Gooch’s assist count dropped from 11 in the 2020/21 campaign to seven, he was still one of Sunderland’s most creative players.
According to Wyscout, only Rotherham’s Chiedozie Ogbene played more key passes (a pass that immediately creates a clear goal scoring opportunity for a team-mate) than Gooch in League One last term.
Gooch was also ranked sixth in the division when it came to crosses into the box, averaging a delivery every 19 minutes, with many of them directed into the six yard box.
The accuracy of those crosses was questioned at times, and the wideman will hope to improve on a 37% accuracy score in the new campaign.
At the other end of the pitch, Gooch’s defensive qualities have also been questioned, yet his performances at full-back in three play-off fixtures demonstrated his capabilities. According to Wyscout, Gooch won 62.5% of his defensive duels last term.
Still, despite his strong end to the season, it’s easy to forget that Sunderland came close to selling the winger in January, with suggestions he could move to another League One club.
At that point Gooch’s departure may not have seemed such a significant blow, while question marks remained about his best position and consistency levels.
That is why his calabre is often hard to ascertain, and there was interest from Championship clubs before the American signed a new deal on Wearside.
The player’s form under Neil certainly played a big part in the new deal, and the head coach has previously described Gooch as a ‘warrior’ who ‘works his socks off every single day.’
Those comments show Gooch’s value to the squad despite a mixed 2022/23 campaign.