SUNDERLAND’S squad overhaul will be complete if Papy Djilobodji and Didier Ndong leave before the international transfer window closes on Friday, and Lynden Gooch feels the club’s renewed sense of spirit has already been a key factor in their ability to acclimatise to life in League One.

Neither Djilobodji nor Ndong have attempted to hide their desire to leave Wearside in the wake of last season’s relegation from the Championship, but the fact they refused to return to the Academy of Light at any stage of this summer’s training programme meant they were unable to be a disruptive influence as Jack Ross set about reinvigorating his squad.

Nevertheless, there will still be a collective sigh of relief if they complete their anticipated moves in the next few days, with Benfica involved in discussions over Ndong and both Hannover and Trabzonspor having held talks over Djilobodji.

Their exit should enable Ross to bring in a striker to supplement his current attacking ranks, and if Bryan Oviedo and Lee Cattermole remain, the Sunderland boss will be able to reflect on his summer transfer work with a large degree of satisfaction.

A host of signings have already made their mark, and while he has only been on Wearside for three months himself, Ross has successfully blended the new arrivals with the youthful core that remained intact in the wake of last season’s relegation.

“Of course the team spirit is much better,” said Gooch, who has emerged as one of Sunderland’s key performers in the opening month of the campaign. “We’re a very young team, but we’ve got new players and it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time.

“There’s a great chemistry there, we’re good mates off the pitch, having a laugh. It hasn’t been like that for years. It’s massive, and you can see it’s really paying off on the pitch.”

That sense of togetherness was undoubtedly a factor in Sunderland’s weekend win at AFC Wimbledon, with Ross’ side digging deep to overhaul a one-goal deficit despite having found themselves under the cosh for the majority of the first half.

At no stage did Sunderland’s players allow their heads to drop, and Gooch points to the opening-day win over Charlton Athletic as an important staging post in the squad’s mental development.

The Black Cats conceded an early opener to Charlton, but battled back to level through Josh Maja before Gooch’s stoppage-time winner provoked a euphoric reaction at the Stadium of Light.

There have been plenty of dark days in the last two seasons, so Gooch admits it was important that the current campaign began on a much more positive note.

“We talked about that at half-time at Wimbledon,” he said. “We probably didn’t play great against Charlton in the first half, but still came back and won the game. We did that at Wimbledon too.

“We can take a lot of great things from that. We stuck together, the first half wasn’t great, but we dug deep and we were magnificent in the second half.”

Having claimed maximum points from last week’s games at Gillingham and Wimbledon, Sunderland can now look forward to some home comforts in the next fortnight.

League matches at the Stadium of Light against Oxford and Fleetwood sandwich a Checkatrade Trophy home game with Stoke City’s Under-21s, and Sunderland should be able to reprise some of the free-flowing attacking play they recently showcased against Scunthorpe. Nevertheless, Gooch feels it is important they have proved they have more than one side to their game.

“The Wimbledon win shows we’ve got grit,” he said. “We’re the biggest team in this division, so every team’s going to want to try to roll us over. But we dug deep.”