Wise Men Say: Sunderland look fitter, faster and stronger and this academy ace is integral to Phil Parkinson's plan

In that second or so between the ball leaving Lynden Gooch’s left boot and hitting the back of the MK Dons net, everything stood still.

Monday, 20th January 2020, 10:19 am

Fans and players alike were transfixed; the only real movement was the token dive from keeper Lee Nicholls (excellent as he’d been all game, he knew he was never saving this), and from Gooch himself who was already wheeling away.

The almighty release of pressure in the away end when the net bulged really was something to behold.

4,500 bodies and sets of limbs were flying everywhere – there were fans on the pitch, players in the stand and the noise was deafening.

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Sunderland players celebrate Lynden Gooch's winner against MK Dons.

Gooch and his teammates flying down to the corner to be greeted by those fans quickest off the mark rather neatly sums up why we all love this game so much.

The significance of that goal and the result it brought cannot be overstated, and the improvement of this Sunderland side from our game at Doncaster three weeks ago to now is nothing short of astounding.

Full credit must go to Parkinson and his staff as well as the players themselves for bringing this about - we look fitter, faster and stronger than at any point I can think in League One so far, and are full of desire and playing some really good stuff at times too.

As has been said already no one can claim to have seen this upturn coming and many (myself included) had largely written this season off; but it’s four wins in five now, and I’m more than happy to keep wolfing down large portions of humble pie.

One man who has been as integral to this upturn as anyone is Gooch.

He’s fast becoming one of our most important players and although his form (as with any player below elite level) is liable to peaks and troughs he never hides, is always committed and is seemingly absolutely integral to everything we’re doing under Parky.

You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in the squad more deserving of being the first name on the team sheet than Gooch, and if he keeps this up then the sky’s the limit for Sunderland this season.