LYNDEN GOOCH is close to agreeing a new contract with Sunderland and Jack Ross believes it is a sign of just how much the American loves playing for the club.

The 22-year-old’s existing deal runs out next summer and he has already had detailed talks about signing fresh terms.

Ross is determined to retain the player’s services and has left discussions with those members of his squad who are out of contract to boardroom, where owner Stewart Donald hinted this week that there could be some news before Christmas.

Now the Sunderland manager has hinted Gooch is close to signing a new deal, and that would be a huge boost following his impressive performances in League One this season.

He already has six goals to his name and a number of assists and he has outlined to Ross that he would love to stay and help Sunderland climb back up the football ladder.

“The dialogue with Lynden as a club has been pretty good,” said Ross. “I would hope there would be positive news in that respect soon. That was probably the one Stewart was alluding to.

“There’s nothing concrete as yet. Lynden is another player that I am close to and he has been terrific for me this season. He genuinely loves this club and he has a real affinity with the club and area.

“He wants to grow with us, so I will be hopeful that in the near future there will be positive news on him.”

Gooch started to travel over to Sunderland from California aged ten and has been part of the club ever since, so there is a genuine affection there which is driving him on to improve the fortunes of the Wearside outfit.

Ross said: “His commitment and his approach, not just his contribution in terms of goals and assists, which have been very good, but his overall levels have been very good and his desire to do well for the club is very evident.

“He is an interesting one because Paul Walsh (sports scientist) gave me some minutes comparing this season and last to look at what we are loading on the players. The two that have played in significantly more minutes this season are Josh Maja and Lynden.

“Lynden is the one who has surprised me a little, I don’t know if he had injuries last season or through a lack of selection. The number of minutes he has played at this stage of the two seasons is way above, that’s testament to his performance levels. I think he is feeling the benefit of having that consistency of selection.”

After missing the midweek FA Cup defeat to Walsall, Gooch will be involved against Bristol Rovers on Saturday along with Aiden McGeady. Ross also confirmed Duncan Watmore, who has played two cup games since recovering from a cruciate knee ligament injury, will also be in the squad.

Sunderland are looking for a positive response after winning just two of their last six matches, form which has seen them fall out of the League One automatic promotion places as well as being dumped out of the FA Cup.

Ross said: “Defeat’s been an unusual feeling this season because we have not had it very often, the reaction is always the most important thing. It was certainly just acutely felt in the cup.

“But it is good we have that mentality in such a short space of time because we have got used to not losing. That’s what we wanted to do. It’s about continuing that because if you maintain that over the course of the season then you give yourself a good chance of being successful.”

Losing to Walsall in midweek brought an end to a 16-match unbeaten run. After the last defeat at Burton in September, Sunderland responded by winning nine of their next 11 matches. That sort of reaction this time around would be perfect either side of New Year.

Ross said: “I always work on the basis that you can take something from every game, it goes back to consistency of behaviour so we don’t suddenly change what we are doing because we have lost a game or won it 5-0.  “There have been times when we have looked back on games and that has been fairly consistent, sometimes within a poorer performance it allows you to highlight a couple of key things that if you don’t them it gives you less chance to win a game.

“The understanding from the club has been good this season, but sometimes that little reminder is a little easier when it comes on the back of a defeat.”

But one thing Ross has learned over the years is not to dwell for too long.

He said: “The one thing I have learned from my playing days is that you can’t get too high with highs and too low with the lows. It does stand you in good stead. Very few teams will go through undefeated. That’s including very good teams who have not managed to do that.

“You have to try to make sure you don’t get too despondent when you do lose a game. It is more encouraging the things they have shown for the bulk of the season.”

Now Sunderland face Bristol Rovers, who sacked former Hartlepool midfielder Darrell Clarke yesterday with his side sit just above the relegation zone.

Ross said: “Irrespective of the teams’ league position we have faced, they have always reacted to playing at the Stadium of Light.

“I would imagine this challenge will be as tough as it has been for every home game. It is nice to be at home again after Tuesday, a disappointing display, we have not had to bounce back very often this season but when we have we have done it well. I would expect the same.”