Lynden Gooch thinks Simon Grayson has spotted his potential as a forward after scoring his first Sunderland goal against Carlisle United.
Gooch was introduced to the first team at the beginning of last season in midfield, as David Moyes tried to get to grips with a threadbare squad.
Injury curtailed that progress but as Grayson began his search for new strikers at the start of the pre-season programme, Gooch led the line and did himself no harm in Sunderland’s opening three games.
He partnered Joel Asoro up front in a new look 5-3-2 at Brunton Park and performed superbly.
Gooch admitted he felt the pressure of trying to prove himself and push for a place in Grayson’s league side but is pleased to be back in senior action after the injury struggles of last season.
“Growing up I always played as a striker and I think the gaffer’s seen that in me from day one of pre-season. I like to play as a No.9 or a No.10. I think that’s where I was influential at Carlisle,” he said.
“I set up the goal and got on the scoresheet as well from a wide area. I can play anywhere across the front really.
“Sometimes you can [put yourself under pressure]. For me I haven’t been playing much and getting much game-time so the only way for me to break in is to do what I did on Tuesday. Hopefully, I can put that pressure on the manager to pick me.
“The injury last season was a big disappointment and I’ve had a couple of niggles since then. The main thing is to try and stay fit and healthy so I can keep playing and build myself back up.”
Gooch’s progress will be a major boost for Grayson, who has vowed to give young players opportunities while the depth in his squad is lacking.
Duncan Watmore is due back from injury in the coming weeks while George Honeyman has taken his chance and started all four Championship games so far this season, scoring the opening goal against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Having played alongside Honeyman for a number of years in the academy set-up, Gooch is thrilled with their progress.
He said: “It was obviously a relief as a team to get through and for me to get my first goal. I’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time. I’ve been at the club for 11 years now so to get that goal was the best feeling ever.
“For it to be a match-winner, the same as George’s at Bury, was even more special. Me and him have been through the ranks together for years so to be able to do that together in recent weeks is amazing. I don’t even know what to say. “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”