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Nick Barnes: “All Power to Max - Sunderland fans must get behind downtrodden midfielder!”

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In the latest edition of Barnesy’s Blog, Roker Report columnist Nick Barnes talks extensively about Max Power and why people must get behind him as he attempts to kick-start his Sunderland career following a very tough period.

Danny Roberts

Max Power’s red card at Walsall led to what seemed like an unprecedented debate across the weekend on social media as to whether or whether not it was a red card offence. More of note, though, was the level of animosity and vehemence directed at Power, with many berating him for his ‘dirty streak’ and insisting he return to Wigan Athletic.

Let’s get a sense of perspective.

For many seasons fans have been calling for a player to be signed in the ilk of Kevin Ball. I’ve never heard of Bally being called ‘dirty’. Uncompromising, aggressive, full-on, combative... but never dirty.

How has Max Power earned the sobriquet? A player who up to his arrival at Sunderland had played 270 games for Wigan and Tranmere and had never received a red card. A challenge against Oxford United which led to much debate and still divides opinion, a retaliatory kicking out with no contact at Bradford and a challenge at Walsall that led to a mistaken red card - and suddenly Power was a ‘dirty’ player.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

As Jack Ross points out, a player in Power’s position needs to have an element of aggression and at times, yes, Power has seemed a tad impulsive, but not in any way I would deem ‘dirty’. Impetuous, yes. Eager, yes. But he’s not the type of player who callously hunts down the opposition with a view to inflict injury or cynically foul.

By his own admission, speaking to him following the 4-2 win over Barnsley, Power told me he’d played within himself as the spectre of the challenge at Walsall hung over him, and it may do so again at Walsall in the FA Cup. He told me he’d spoken with a referee on Sunday about his appeal and been told there was probably little chance the card would be rescinded.

Imagine how Power felt on Sunday night/Monday morning ahead of the decision? Thankfully common sense prevailed and the five match (six if you include the Checkatrade Trophy) isolation was avoided.

Max Power suffered on two levels at the weekend. Firstly through the injustice of the referees decision, and secondly at the hands of the detractors who like the referee acted instantaneously and without taking a moment to reflect on the incident. All credit to both Jack Ross and Dean Keates who both defended Power, though Keates was reticent to blame Kinsella for his role in the incident. Ross has made it clear he defended Power because he felt vehemently an injustice had been served on his player.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The opprobrium levelled at Power at Walsall would have been better directed at Mark Kinsella, whose initial bid for the ball led to the collision, but who went into the challenge with his feet off the ground and studs showing. As a result of the referee’s instantaneous decision, not only did Sunderland lose Max Power but they were almost certainly denied two points.

Sunderland were in the driving seat, and a combination of Walsall hanging on and the dismissal without doubt changed the game in Walsall’s favour.

Two points that at the end of the season could be critical. Of course, it’s ifs and maybes but nonetheless it was a crucial decision and in hindsight if Power was culpable in the challenge so was Kinsella - but the Walsall midfielder escaped any punishment.

The referee must have seen the incident so no retrospective action can be taken. The regulations to my mind are clearly flawed.

Max Power spoke openly and fully about his dismissal following the win over Barnsley and you will struggle to find a more grounded and dedicated player who wholeheartedly wants to do well at Sunderland.

He lives in Sunderland, walks his children to school every morning, reveling in living in the city and playing for the club. He’s still only 25 and while he’s not Kevin Ball he brings to the team the same values and desire Bally did as a player.

He’s not got a ‘dirty streak’ as I read on several posts - what he has is a streak of determination and desire. All Power to Max.