Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch is confident that the Black Cats' younger generation are ready to make the step up to the Premier League - just as he has done this season.
Gooch claims competition from youngsters keeps everyone on their toes
The American became a constant figure in and around the first-team before an injury he picked up back in November ruled him out for a lengthy period of time, although he is now ready to be selected should David Moyes call upon him at Everton this weekend.
Gooch said that his manager "knows he can trust me and George [Honeyman] now" as the pair have "done [their] part to help the team and held [their] own" after first-team injuries left Moyes with little choice but to pluck players from his younger contingent.
The 21-year-old added that the younger players have "come in and lifted the group a bit" due to the fact the senior players are now fully aware that "these kids want to take our place."
Moyes a key figure in the American's top-flight introduction
Despite being American-born, Gooch is no stranger to Wearside having "been here on and off for around 11 years" after travelling to Sunderland during his school holidays for training camps since the age of 10, before signing a full-time contract at 16.
Being brought through Sunderland's Academy of Light means that Gooch knows exactly what is expected of him once he pulls on a red and white shirt. He said: "If you’re not willing to run around and track back then you're not going to play at the highest level."
Sunderland boss Moyes has been the driving force behind Gooch's introduction to top-flight football, and the American said that his manager's faith in him "gave me a big boost" to know "that I'd be back involved as soon as I was fit."
Moyes takes his 20th-placed Sunderland side to his former stomping ground this weekend as they face Everton at Goodison Park, with kick-off at 3pm.