Midfielder Max Power may have only been absent for one match since joining Sunderland, but in that ninety minutes it became evidently clear just how much of a miss he’ll be for the next two league games.
His five appearances so far in a Sunderland shirt have yielded two goals, but on Saturday we missed so much more than that.
Power has developed a relationship with Lee Cattermole, a man who seemed destined to leave Wearside, and both seem to complement each other in their style. Cattermole’s usual tenacious performances in front of the back four have allowed Power to play a relatively free role supporting the attackers and making a nuisance of himself - a role he’s excelled in so far this season.
His replacement for Saturday’s 1-1 draw was fellow summer signing Dylan McGeouch, and the average opinion from Sunderland fans on his performance wasn’t great. On the evidence of Saturday it would appear that he and Cattermole are very similar, and in home games that’s not going to be particularly useful.
The good thing from Sunderland’s perspective is that we have players in almost every position now where there’s healthy competition, something you can say safely about the centre of midfield. Cattermole and McGeouch will no doubt be more than aware that if their performances aren’t good, we have players like Power ready to come back in.
They’ve got the new two games to prove their worth unchallenged, but should they fail to establish themselves there can be no doubting that Power will step straight back in at the expense of one of them.
So far, Max Power’s contributions have helped to guide Sunderland to three wins, and with him in the middle of the park we have looked much stronger.
In his short time at the club he has so far proved to be a valuable signing, and without going as far to say that we are lost without him, I feel confident in saying we are a much better side when he lines up alongside Lee Cattermole in our starting eleven.
We’ve played without Power twice this season in league games - against Fleetwood, and on the opening day against Charlton - and I’d argue that we lacked drive and leadership in midfield in both of those games.
It will be interesting to see how the team cope without him against Burton and then the week after against Rochdale - two games that in truth we ought to play on the front foot in, and take all three points from.
Despite only being a Sunderland player for a short while, Max Power has endeared himself to supporters and the pangs of disappointment in his exclusion over the coming weeks is a testament of how good of a player he is.
It’s a nice change having players who want to play for the shirt, and having fans feeling genuinely disappointed Power can’t play is a compliment; let’s just hope it’s not something we have to deal with on too many occasions this season.
Power could very possibly reclaim his place when he is available for selection against Coventry City in just over three weeks’ time.
Until then, we’ll need the likes of McGeouch, Cattermole, O’Nien or anyone else tasked with playing in midfield to maintain Power’s enthusiasm. Two of the three listed above will be under more pressure to put in a good performance than the other; I think you’ll all be able to guess who.