'It’s going to be a massive occasion' - Lynden Gooch has this firm message for Sunderland ahead of huge week
Lynden Gooch says Sunderland cannot think about a return to Wembley as they prepare to begin their play-off campaign.
The Black Cats are preparing for a crucial week in their campaign, with two games in four days against Lincoln City standing between the side and a return to the national stadium to compete for a place in the second tier.
And while some are already dreaming of a return to Wembley following March’s triumph in the Papa John’s Trophy, Gooch says the focus needs to remain on the Imps.
"It’s going to be a massive occasion,” he said of the play-off semi-final.
"We were in this situation two years ago with Portsmouth so hopefully we can get to the final again.
"A lot of us are still here, and we went to Wembley this year and won which will put us in good stead.
“But we can’t think about the final, we have to get the semi-final done first and make sure we put in a good performance away and at home in the second leg.”
"They’ve been tough games,” he added, when quizzed on Lincoln.
"I didn’t play in the first game, but the two games at home – they were really well organised, difficult to break down, and I thought both games were evenly-matched.
"Obviously we went through on penalties in the cup game so hopefully we can perform well and get the job done.”
The play-offs hand Sunderland a second chance to gain promotion after a disappointing run of form in April, and that’s a message that has been hammered home by head coach Lee Johnson this week after a mixed campaign.
"It’s been up and down,” admitted the American.
"We put ourselves in a really good position after finding ourselves behind the pack, and then fell short at the end.
"But like the manager said to all of us, we’ve got a second chance to put it right.”
The second leg with Lincoln City will also see supporters return to the Stadium of Light for the first time since March 2020 – a prospect that Gooch is relishing.
"I can’t wait.
"The supporters have been waiting a long time, I’m sure they’re itching to get back to the Stadium of Light.
"Hopefully we can send them home happy.”