The key Sunderland man who has stepped-up in more than one way ahead of the club's promotion push
In a season of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, there have been some constants.
And for Sunderland, one of those has been the vociferous nature of skipper Max Power.
In an empty stadium, the midfielder’s every instruction and word of encouragement can be heard.
But it’s notable in recent weeks that those shouts have got that little bit louder and that little bit more regular – which is perhaps to be expected now we’re firmly in the business end of the season.
And as he has stepped up the volume levels, so too has Power stepped up his performance levels when it matters most.
Sunderland’s captain has been a strong performer in recent weeks and has played a key role in a side that have now gone eleven games unbeaten.
While his showings may not have gained the attention as much as those of some of his teammates, we are now seeing some of the former Wigan man’s best football since his arrival on Wearside.
His performance levels are even more impressive when you consider the number of positions he has had to play since the turn of the year, too. While Luke O’Nien is often viewed as Sunderland’s Mr Versatile, that’s a title Power may also lay claim to having played as a right-back, right-sided central defender and a midfielder in the last month.
Much of his positional rotation was through necessity, with injuries to a number of Sunderland’s defensive options leaving Lee Johnson light at the back.
Power, therefore, was asked to deputise at right-back and put in some fine performances in that role.
But it was in his natural position in the heart of midfield where he impressed against Lincoln City.
In the first-half in particular, the 27-year-old was at the heart of some of Sunderland’s best moments.
His vision helped in spreading the play, getting the likes of Aiden McGeady and Lynden Gooch onto the ball in promising areas while the Lincoln backline were caught napping.
And of course, his delivery for the opening goal of the game was superb and one which was begging for a touch.
We’ve seen the midfielder swing in plenty of those crosses in the past and, on this occasion, Callum McFadzean’s desire to get on the end of the ball meant it didn’t go to waste.
Power retained the ball well and his quality in possession was evident in the opening 45 minutes.
At the other end, he did well to break up a number of provision visiting counter-attacks, stepping in to steal possession before breaking and driving the side forward.
While he wasn’t as involved in the second half, his leadership and other less tangible qualities came to the fore late on as Sunderland weathered some Lincoln pressure.
It is that kind of experience, nous and leadership that will serve Sunderland well as they continue to push towards the top two.
And with plenty of big games still to come, expect Power to step-up further – both in terms of volume and performance level.