HE might have started his Sunderland career as a flying winger, but after filling a host of different roles during the current campaign, Lynden Gooch is happy that people increasingly see him as ‘someone who can defend’.

While Gooch has become no stranger to playing as a wing-back, Friday night’s play-off semi-final first leg against Sheffield Wednesday saw him lining up as an orthodox right-back in a flat back four.

Earlier in his career, that might well have led to some difficult questions about the defensive side of his game, but having been charged with the task of helping to neuter the Owls attack, the American responded with an accomplished display as Sunderland secured a 1-0 lead to take to Hillsborough for the second leg.

With Carl Winchester unavailable, Gooch is likely to remain at full-back on Friday night, and he is pleased that the defensive side of his game is finally getting the same recognition as his more attacking attributes.

“I think people are starting to see that I can defend now,” said Gooch. “I think managers play me in a defensive role now because they feel like they can trust me.

“They know I can do both sides of the game. That’s why I think managers have played me in those full-back positions when needed.

“I feel comfortable there, and at the minute, I’m priding myself on defending well and helping the team. Then when I can attack, I try to attack as best I can.”

Like Luke O’Nien, Gooch’s versatility has proved a major asset, although the 26-year-old admits it is not always easy to switch from one side of the pitch to the other, or be repositioned from winger to full-back.

“They’re very different roles,” he said. “So, you have to really switch your mindset when you move around. You have to change the way you play in each different position, and that’s not always easy.

“That’s why I think sometimes people can say, ‘Oh, he’s not good enough’ or this and that, but you’re constantly changing position and the way you have to play the game, and there’s different roles with what you’re doing.

“I just try to do everything to the best of my ability, the best I can to try to help the team. That’s my role at the minute.

“We’ve kind of struggled in the full-back positions this season, and me and Carl Winchester had to really step up on that right-hand side. Even on the left at times when we’ve had injuries, I’ve had to play there. I just try to do the best I can. Obviously, it’s difficult at times for myself, but it’s for the good of the team.”

Friday’s victory means a draw on Monday evening will guarantee Sunderland a place in the play-off final at Wembley.

Gooch was Sunderland’s hero when they were last at the national stadium, scoring the winning goal in last season’s Papa John’s Trophy final triumph over Tranmere, but while lifting silverware was a memorable experience, albeit one that took place behind-closed-doors, the academy product readily admits that winning promotion would trump anything else he has achieved in a red-and-white shirt.

“If we could win promotion, that would top everything,” he said. “Without a doubt. I said when I signed a new deal three-and-a-half years ago that I wanted to stay to achieve promotion and try to not only help us as players, but also the people that work for the football club as well.

“I’ve been here a long time, and a lot of people are really close friends. I consider them as family really, so if we can achieve that for them, it’ll be great for everyone.”