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Sunderland v Tranmere Rovers - Papa John’s Trophy Final

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The resurgence of Max Power - are we finally seeing the best of him, as a player and a leader?

Max Power has turned into a proper Sunderland captain. Are we finally seeing the best of him, both as a player and as a leader of men?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Charlie Wyke is getting a lot of credit for his goals. Aiden McGeady is receiving plaudits for his serial assisting. O’Nien and Sanderson are taking turns to be man of the match as a result of keeping all of these somewhat unexpected but very welcome clean sheets. In amongst all the praise being dished out, is Max Power’s vital contribution being overlooked?

Power has played all but six minutes of our last ten games in all competitions - a run of games in which we’ve won eight, won one on penalties and drawn one.

In this time, my opinion on Max Power has completely changed.

I’ve gone from questioning whether he should be in the starting eleven to wondering how the team would cope without him. In the recent run of excellent form, Power has played three key roles (right back, central midfield and captain). He’s become a real leader who fully deserves to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

If a moment of quality from Aiden McGeady was the difference in the cup final, then 45 minutes of non-stop graft and desire from Max Power was the difference against Accrington. After a disappointing first half of typical League One non-football, where Power and many of his teammates struggled to exert any influence on the game, he came out in the second half and took the game by the scruff of the neck.

Power showed the kind of leadership that we’ve been crying out for in these kind of games for the past three seasons.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In the second half against Accrington, Max Power was everywhere.

Out of possession, he harassed and harried, making it as uncomfortable as possible for the opposition. In possession, he moved the ball with the kind of urgency that rubbed off on the players around him. He also put in a couple of big, full-blooded tackles - the kind of tackles that can really get a team going in a dour game like the one Accrington were trying their best to drag us into.

Oh, and the corner he placed straight onto the head of Charlie Wyke for our second goal wasn’t bad either. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, football can seem like a much simpler game when you have a bit of confidence.

I believe that the switch to playing right back is one of the factors that has contributed to the resurgence of Max Power. There’s a lot less to think about playing right back compared to centre midfield. The majority of the passes that you need to make are quite straightforward, the runs you need to make are more repetitive in nature and from a defensive point of view, there are generally fewer opposition players to deal with.

Plus, the knowledge that Dion Sanderson is just over your left shoulder if you need a helping hand must fill you with confidence.

When Power, who in my opinion had been underwhelming and looked somewhat lost in the centre of midfield in the first half of the season, slotted in at right back for the first time against Port Vale, he looked comfortable straight away.

His passes started to find their intended targets more often, he was winning more tackles and headers and he could frequently be found marauding forward in attack, often delivering quality crosses into the box.

Since then, in the games where he has made the switch back to the centre of midfield, he seems to have carried that confidence and quality with him. That confidence is not only affecting his role as a player but it’s clearly having a positive impact on Max Power the captain too.

It stands to reason that if you’re playing well and contributing to wins, it’s much easier to lead the troops, and fire a rocket at teammates who aren’t doing the business.

I don’t know what Lee Johnson said at half time on Wednesday night, but whatever he said must have struck a chord with Max Power. I can’t remember him having a better 45 minutes this season. He showed exactly the kind of determination, industry and leadership that we are going to need if we are to secure automatic promotion.

Credit where it’s due, and long may it continue.

On This Day (9 June 2007): Midfielder turns down Sunderland return – and heads to Bolton instead


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