Max Power's revealing insight into Lee Johnson's impact as he opens up on Sunderland's season and Wembley final

There's some good news to get out of the way first.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 6:00 am

Sunderland supporters, basking in the glow of a superb display at Fratton Park, couldn't help but overhear their captain as he went through his post-match congratulations.

Get the tunes on, Sunderland's kitman (and seemingly DJ) was told. One word has been left out there, but if we tell you Power admits he should probably cut down on the swearing a little, you can work it out.

Preparing for Sunday's final at Wembley, Power is happy to confirm that the tunes were on and up to scratch.

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Sunderland captain Max Power

What the clip showed was a captain relishing his responsibilities and what the reaction showed was even more significant.

The clash with Tranmere Rovers may be less important in the long run than the league games ahead but it is a chance to mark what is a growing sense of unity and purpose right across the club.

With the takeover resolved and results improving, fans feel connected again and the captain is leading the way.

"I think it was the first time the manager didn't have to speak after a game and that was a nice feeling," Power said.

"We knew how well we'd performed and yeah, the tunes did go on.

"Being Sunderland in League One, you're expected to win every game and rightly so.

"I think sometimes we've not enjoyed those wins as much as we should, whether it's been a scrappy 1-0 or a 4-0 or whatever.

"It's one thing I've tried to bring in more as captain, enjoy those days and enjoy those performances.

"It only brings good cohesion for me.

"I see it in training, on Friday everyone comes in with a spring in their step and I'm gutted the game is not tomorrow because we're eager, ready to go.

"We can't get too ahead of ourselves, the gaffer is right when he talks about flattening the waves, but at the same time fans should get excited and we should too.

"We're in a final, a good position in the league. We need to use that momentum."

It is striking just often Power uses the word 'energised' when he talks of the impact Lee Johnson has had.

For Power, that emphatic win over Portsmouth was the culmination of months of hard work, the philosophy Johnson is instilling coming to fruition.

Power is one of many who has hit form at a crucial time.

After defeat at Shrewsbury Power pulled the short straw (as he often does) and stepped for post-match press duties. While in time he has felt his assessment of the performance that night was harsh, what he stands by is at that moment the season stood on a hinge.

The injuries that followed could have derailed a promotion push but players like Power and Luke O'Nien (who are jokingly calling themselves Polyfilla these days) have stepped up and built a platform for the run-in.

It's no coincidence.

A fresh voice and a fresh approach has clearly given the 27-year-old a fresh drive.

"I'm enjoying these different roles and that's been one of the things about this manager," he said.

"I'm always learning and that's nice at 27, he wants to improve players and make them better.

"It doesn't matter whether it's me, a Dan Neil or someone like Granty. He's willing to help and coach anyone. Anyone who wants to get better as a footballer has the platform to do so.

"It's been a bit of a strange season in terms of, I started it as a captain but picked up a little injury and was a bit in and out," he added.

"I'd be the first to admit that I lost a bit of confidence and performance.

"Since this manager has come in I've really enjoyed working with him, I have felt reinvigorated.

"You discuss football and for me, the most important signing in a building as a manager. Yeah we go on the pitch but the manager sets us up and gets us going.

"You saw Tuesday night, a really strong performance from back to front.

Confidence in football is massive. Just look at Charlie, and the reintroduction of Geads, he's obviously been fantastic. There's two players who are hard to deal with for the opposition.

"For me it's about keeping standards up and driving that.

"Take Dion for instance, who looks a player well beyond years. It's important for him to keep working hard, it's nice to get those pats on the back and I'm constantly talking to him, reminding him that you're only one or two performances away from the other side of it.

"It's so nice watching a player like that progress and at the moment, you can go right through the squad with that."

There will be some divided loyalties in the Power household come Sunday.

Power's Dad is devoted to Tranmere Rovers, a lone wolf in a family of Liverpool fans.

He will be firmly behind his son and Sunday and the opponent makes it a poignant occasion for Power, who made his first steps in the game there and can still recall so many of the lessons learned. The withering dressing down from Ronnie Moore for an almost costly square pass, for example.

It helps him take a step back and realise where he is now, with a chance to lift silverware for Sunderland.

There are bigger and more important challenges ahead, and the lack of fans will make for a surreal and bittersweet occasion, but there's no questioning the incentive.

Win and the tunes will be on, of that you can be sure.

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