David Preece: If Max can control Power surges then he will become a Sunderland star

Whatever the circumstances in which they came, three red cards before December is some going, by anyone's standards.

Thursday, 29th November 2018, 5:55 pm
Sunderland midfielder Max Power is sent off against Oxford.

Max Power by name, full steam ahead by nature. It’s probably been more of a start to his Sunderland career to forget, rather than to remember, but redemption of sorts came with a successful appeal and now he can press the reset button and start again.

It’s always difficult when joining a new club, especially when you’re making the step up to a bigger club as Max did when arriving from Wigan. That’s no dig at Wigan by the way. I think most would acknowledge the difference in history, and size of support is evidence of that.

And when you do make that step up, all you want to do is impress everyone. First and foremost, you want to win over your team-mates.

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This, for me, was the main priority when stepping in to a dressing room. I’ve said previously that players can eye a manager up and down within five minutes of him walking in and know whether he’s going to be a success or not - and they can be just as cutting when it comes to newby team-mates.

Amongst many other factors, winning over a group of footballers, some of who you are in direct competition for a place with, is part of what makes it so difficult for players who go on trial at clubs. I can probably count on one hand how many trialists out of the dozens, perhaps hundreds, I’ve seen come and go over the years who have truly impressed.

From the very moment you step through the doors you are being weighed up. If you’re too boisterous and outgoing, everyone thinks ‘who does this fella think he is?’.

If you’re too quiet, everyone will assume you’re nervous and to them that spells weakness. Your best hope is that you already know someone playing there and that eases you in more naturally, aiding your acceptance.

Ultimately, it’s your performances out on the training pitch and on a Saturday afternoon which will ingratiate you to the group. Any off-field indiscretions or differences will be forgiven if you measure up to the standards of your team-mates.

So what happens when you get sent off three times in your first four months?

What do your team-mates think of you then? That you’re a liability? That you can’t be trusted and fear you’ll let them down?

Frankly, yes.

It’s the brutality of football. First time is forgivable. The second is unfortunate. The third? Ordinarily that mistrust would be blanket, across coaching and playing staff, and the eye-rolling would set off around the place like a Mexican wave.

And then there are the fans.

It’s only human to want to be liked. As a footballer you want to be respected by your peers but the fans? You want their adoration. You want them to sing your name with feeling.

I can only remember two songs sang about me by fans. The first was ‘There’s only two David Preeces’ that the Aberdeen fans sang after I corrected them that my dad was also called David.

The second was by Esbjerg fans who, to the theme of ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’, sang ‘David Preece, Superstar, wears ladies knickers and he wears a bra (where’s your ponytail?)’ whenever I played there.

Not quite the adoration I longed for, but better than nothing nonetheless. But that’s why it has been such a testing time for Max Power.

Signing for a club like Sunderland, even from the modicum of success and the positivity generated by results and performances so far, he must feel just how much love the Sunderland fans will give him if promotion is achieved this season.

The kind of love I gave Marco Gabbiadini and Eric Gates.

There was a lot of criticism levelled at him after his red card on Saturday and to be honest, I was surprised when it was overturned.

After a stop-start beginning to his time at the Stadium of Light, he will have been more desperate to win over the fans and throwing himself into titanic tackles is certainly one way to do that.

I lived for Kevin Ball tackles, but even he limited his x-rated ones to a couple a season.

Luckily for Max now, the successful appeal has handed him the chance to really get his Sunderland career on track without further interruption and hopefully he’ll take it to become this year’s Gordon Armstrong, and leave his John Kay phase behind him.