After returning from international duty, Jon McLaughlin is all set for Wembley and is also appreciating the praise he’s received this season. Let’s hope he’s been practising penalties. "It’s always nice if you get praise, if you feel as if you’re contributing and people appreciate that, but at the end of the day, managers are right when they say you’re there to do a job and they wouldn’t have brought you to the club if they didn’t feel you were going to perform. I’m old enough now to know as well that managers don’t like to have to think about goalkeepers. They’ve got enough on their plate with the other ten players and trying to score goals at the other end. The main thing they want from a goalkeeper is to take care of themselves, to not have to think too much about them. Be there when needed, dependable, to be comfortable that they’ll deliver and to know it’s a position that is ticked off. Hopefully I’ve been able to do that for the manager. You understand what managers mean when they say they don’t want to be praising their goalkeepers all the time, that means there’s been too much happening at the wrong end. They want to be talking about scoring goals and winning games at the other end. You have to squeeze the praise out of them! It’s nice to get that but at the end of the day, I’d happily sit back and watch a team dominate the other end if it means we win a cup final and get promotion. You enjoy those saves when you make them and it makes a difference to the result. There’s been highlights this year but I never concentrate too much on that, to be honest you’re more happy if you don’t make mistakes. If you shout too much everyone will be waiting to point that finger when you make a howler! I’m just happy that mistakes have been at a premium, and when they have come along we’ve even got away with them. That’s been the best part! I knew that was the pressure coming into this season, with what had been said and the expectations for the goalkeeping position, what people were wanting. I’m just happy to have cemented the place. It’s always nice when the decisions you make are vindicated, and you can reflect on making the right choices. Every club I’ve been at, I’ve been in a situation where I could have stayed and signed new contracts, taking the easier option if you like of improving the contract but not fulfilling everything I was looking for, taking that risk of uprooting, moving the family and starting again at another club. When you fit somewhere, especially as a goalkeeper it’s tough to move, you have to prove yourself again and earn the respect of fans and team-mates, you have to create that bond with the defenders again. It’s a challenge to do that but you hope that it leads you in the right direction. When you end up here, and see where it could go, you’re confident that you made the right decisions. Sometimes you do have to reflect on those early years, the way you would have looked at a club like this, how out of reach it would have seemed. Even though you’re playing for a large club [Bradford], down in the lower leagues you wouldn’t have dreamed of being part of a club like this. In the last few years I’ve been lucky to enjoy success at the club’s I’ve been at, that sense of progression that has led to this point and means that you’ve earned your place here, that you belong at a club like this. To potentially be part of its journey back to the very top is a massive incentive."
McLaughlin also discussed the expectations of playing for Sunderland compared to smaller clubs that he’s been at. "Playing for Burton, there were no expectations. Even when we’d won League Two and were sat in the automatic positions in League One, maybe like Luton this year, people are waiting for that drop off, so there’s no pressure. Here and when I was in League Two with Bradford, there’s that expectation and that pressure both within the club and outside, just because of the size people will assume that it’s straightforward. It’s not, look at Sheffield United, who were stuck in League One for five or six seasons, but if you can do it then you see that they can progress quite quickly and build that momentum. It’s a challenge and it will continue to be so because every game now has massive relevance. Everybody's ambition coming here was promotion. If you were a new player, manager or member of staff coming in, or one already here, it was about making sure you helped turn the club around at the first time of asking. It would be very different to when I was there with Burton, where the only goal was to survive. This club, the minute you stepped into the Championship you would be one of the biggest clubs, with the resources to be competitive straight from the off. It’s a huge carrot for everybody if you can achieve that promotion, to then belong to one of the biggest clubs in the Championship straight away, which you might not have had the chance to do had they not been relegated last season. It’s a massive incentive for myself and everyone else at the club."
In other news, Lynden Gooch attended the 2014 League Cup Final with his dad but is super excited about the possibility of playing at Wembley. "It is hard not to sit there and think about it," he said. "You don't want to get too carried away because you need to stay focused but of course, I've thought about walking out at Wembley and scoring a goal in a cup final - that would just be a dream come true! I went to the 2014 cup final with my dad and it was an amazing day when Fabio Borini scored. I had my scarf on and everything, it was a class day and something I will never forget. When we scored it was brilliant and so was the semi-final at Old Trafford."