“It’s the best day of my career so far!”
After 16 years at the Club, from the Premier League to the third tier, Lynden Gooch has more reasons than most to savour Sunderland’s Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final triumph.
The 26-year-old has experienced the years of hurt first-hand, including back-to-back relegations and two failed Play-Off campaigns, but those memories were finally put to bed yesterday when Alex Neil’s side saw off Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley Stadium.
“I don’t really know what to say, I’m quite emotional to be honest,” he confessed. “We lost three years ago, so I knew exactly what it’s like to be on the losing side and I didn’t want to feel that again.
“Coming through the Academy and being here for so many years, I never wanted to give up and I always wanted to try and get promoted out of the league.
“Finally, we’ve done it and I’m just lost for words.”
Cheered on by over 46,000 Mackems at the National Stadium, the Black Cats were set on their way by Elliot Embleton’s first-half strike before talismanic striker Ross Stewart doubled their advantage late on – his 26th goal of the season.
Gooch credited the impact of that support in driving the team onto success under the arch.
He said: “We know that everywhere we go, you can’t go anywhere without Sunderland fans. It’s a massive Club and you could see that today. They were all around the ground and now it’s time to enjoy it.
“Thank you to the fans for everything. We’ve been through it all together, so let’s savour this moment!”
With that connection with the supporters in mind, it was perhaps fitting that the decisive goal would come from an Academy graduate, with Embleton’s powerful drive proving too hot to handle for League One Golden Glove winner David Stockdale.
“For Elliot to score was amazing,” Gooch added. “Me, Patto (Anthony Patterson), Dan Neil – who was on the bench – as well, there are a lot of lads that have come through the Academy and I’m sure all the Academy staff and all our coaches are very proud of us.”
Embleton capped off his breakthrough season at the Stadium of Light in style, and now has consecutive promotions under his belt, having gone up while on loan with Blackpool in last season’s Play-Off Final.
“It’s unbelievable,” the 23-year-old rejoiced. “To do it in front of nearly 50,000 of your own fans is even better. Obviously, I did it last year with Blackpool, but coming here with so many fans is just amazing.
“I’ve been here since I was seven and unfortunately, I’ve seen us fall down the leagues, but now we’re on our way back up!”