Shocked Lynden Gooch couldn’t believe it when David Moyes handed him his first Sunderland start against title-hopefuls Manchester City.
But now the attack-minded winger has had a taste of Premier League football, he is desperate for more ahead of the Wear-Tees derby against Middlesbrough.
I worked hard all pre-season, I did well and enough to show the manager what I can do.
Gooch thought he’d be on the bench at best at the Etihad Stadium but Moyes instead put his faith in him ahead of Wahbi Khazri, Jeremain Lens and Adnan Januzaj.
And now Gooch is looking to repay him when Sunderland go in search of their first win of the season at the Stadium of Light on Sunday lunchtime.
“I found out last Friday I’d be playing against Manchester City, at the end of training - I was shocked, to be honest,” revealed the 20-year-old.
“I thought at the most I’d maybe get on the bench, and then the manager read my name out before we did set-pieces and I couldn’t believe it.
“I was looking around, checking to make sure it was right. All the lads said ‘Yeah, yeah, you’re fine. I was like ‘Oh’.
“I wasn’t too nervous, I just wanted to stay calm and play the way I’ve always been playing, the way that got me here.
“I had a little bit of a chat with the senior players but if anyone made too much of it, Jermain [Defoe] just went ‘He knows, he knows what he’s got to do, just leave him alone’.
“I worked hard all pre-season, I did well and enough to show the manager what I can do. It was a big surprise but I was ready for it.
“I think the manager has shown he likes to blood young players, like Jack Rodwell at Everton and Adnan Januzaj at Manchester United.
“So I’m hoping to follow in those footsteps.”
Winger Gooch is now targeting a run of games ahead of the visit of Aitor Karanka’s new-look Middlesbrough side on Sunday (kick-off 1.30pm).
“It’d be fantastic to play, it’s another massive game, massive occasion. It would be amazing, a derby as well,” added the California-born winger.
“It would just be a dream come true. We all want to play in these type of games, so it’d be great.
“I’m not afraid to take people on. From when I was little, with my dad growing up, he always told me ‘If you have the chance, take players on. Don’t be afraid. Make a difference.’
“I’ve always been confident in my ability, and I think I showed that on Saturday.
“I wasn’t scared of the occasion, and I felt like I fitted in.”
Moyes praised the impact made by Gooch and fellow youngsters Duncan Watmore and Donald Love against City, hailing their energy and workrate.
“It was tough,” said Gooch.
“I was in the team for my energy, to work hard defensively and to get around people in midfield.
“Their full-backs were obviously coming inside, so I had to do a job for the team and when I did get the ball I tried to express myself and create chances. I thought I did that a few times.
“The manager has shown a lot of faith in me so hopefully I’ve put enough pressure on him that I can stay in the team, or at least come off the bench and make an impact, and be in the squad every week.
“That’s what I want to do.”