Lynden Gooch: Born in the USA

Born and raised in California, the Gooch family are famous for making waves, but while Lynden’s brother, Darshan, was surfing them, the adopted Mackem was crossing them.

At the tender age of 16, and after seeing his brother become a professional surfer, Lynden opted to hang up his surfboard and cross the Atlantic to follow his dreams of becoming a professional footballer.

It hasn’t always been easy for the 22-year-old, and his tale is one of adversity and sacrifice, but after overcoming both, he’s proved that not every American dream has to be fulfilled across the pond.

Born in Santa Cruz, most of Lynden’s friends grew up dreaming of a career in the MLB, NBA or NFL, but then again, none of his pals had a father from Colchester and a mother from Dublin.

Lynden’s passion for the game was evident from a young age, and while others were shooting hoops and slugging for the fences, he was either playing football, watching football or talking about football.

And he’ll tell you himself, it most certainly is called ‘football’, and not soccer!

While playing at the PDA Centre of Excellence in San Jose, Gooch had the opportunity to travel to Wearside at the age of 10 during Spring Break.

During his time at the Academy of Light, he got into a fight and wondered if he’d blown his chance, but little did he know, he had done exactly the opposite.

“I still remember my first visit to Sunderland,” he recalled.

“I trained once and then the next day I scored a hat-trick in front of Ged McNamee, Kevin Ball and Ian Dipper, but in my second game I got into a fight.

“Little did I know at the time, but Ged and Bally said they loved that side of my game, and that was it really.

“From that point on my dad stayed in contact with the club when I went back to the US.

“In America, I was the small kid who didn’t get the chances I wanted, but Sunderland saw something in me and gave me an opportunity to be who I am today.

“Even before I came over to England, all I did was watch football, especially the Premier League, so I was always going to take any chance to come here.”

And take it he did, packing his bags at 16 and leaving his family behind to undertake a scholarship at the Academy of Light.

The road was a lonely and frustrating one at times, with first-team opportunities fleeting as others wasted them, but after years of hard work, the reward has been worth the wait and he’s an established member of the club’s first-team squad.

“I gave up my friends and my family, my nieces and nephews who I don’t get to spend a lot of time with which is tough, but it was all worth it.

“The club’s been fantastic for me and my family, looking after me and making sure that everything was in the right place to come over here and be comfortable.

“It’s funny, George Honeyman and I often talk about how a little beach boy with long blonde hair ended up here, but this is my home now and this is where I want to be for a very long time.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was on the teamsheet for the first game of the 2016-17 season against Manchester City, and I thought it was a joke.

“Jermain Defoe looked at me and said, ‘yep, you’re playing’, and in that moment all of my dreams came true.

“My dad comes from Essex and is a massive Tottenham fan, so I grew up watching Jermain Defoe and to have that moment with him, and play alongside him, was absolutely amazing.”

Although he enjoyed an unforgettable debut, the next two years would lead to further frustration, as the youngster watched the club he’d grown to love fall down the divisions.

But with just seconds remaining in the opening game of the 2018-19 season, Gooch issued a statement that this time, he was here to stay.

“I think the managers probably hated me last season [2017-18] because I was always in their office wanting to play, but it meant so much to me and it was horrible to see what was happening.

“All I wanted to do was help, but unfortunately I was in and out of the side, and after thinking I’d played well when I did get the chance, I would be dropped for the next game.

“After I scored against Charlton Athletic on the opening day of this season, everything just came pouring out and I went crazy.

“I was smashing my head against the grass when everyone was on top of me because it just meant so much to everyone, from the players to fans and everyone else behind the scenes.

“No matter what league we’re in, I want to play for this football club for a very long time, and help take it back where it belongs."

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