Once is forgivable, twice you raise your eyebrows. Thrice? Well it takes strong stuff to fight down the vernacular. Following yet another red card for a player who has not had a red card before we witnessed something remarkable at Walsall. We should probably deal with the Power red card first though. Everyone will have an opinion on this and it does polarise a little. For what it’s worth I think if you slow it down and analyse the incident it’s not a red due to two saving graces. Firstly, the Walsall player was off the ground with studs aimed at Power’s inoffensive back leg. What that says is that this was a 50/50 that was badly timed on both parts. The second saving grace is that I am uncertain how much contact Power actually made. He planted his foot and braced for impact. What I also do not want to do is criticise the referee’s decision. In the speed of the game I can absolutely see why the referee took a view that it was aggressive and dangerous.
I think Power has been unlucky. There aren’t that many who think his red against Oxford was justified especially given some of the other decisions that went unpunished. If the referee sets the standard for how the game should be played, then that standard should be consistent at least. Then there was the Bradford red. A silly kick out which again, i’m Not convinced connected. However, Max Power now knows that if he gives the referee a marginal decision to make then he is going to come off worse. Calls for him to be sent back to Wigan prematurely write off a player who, before joining Sunderland had never seen a red card in his career. It may be that his desperation to prove himself to the supporters bleeds in to his determination to win. It may be that Sunderland get away with less due to the fact they are perceived as arrogant by others in the division. Regardless of why another red was shown, we need to become cuter about our actions.
Now, can we move on to the important business? Can we talk about what followed the last-minute equaliser? You see, in the early part of this season we bemoaned the lack of League One craft on display. We asked whether we were going to get bullied in every game. We asked whether the young lads had enough about them to stand up to a kicking. As that last-minute equaliser went in we saw how much the team had learned about League One. The timid captain from months ago charged towards the Sunderland fans. Rubbed it in the face of Walsall defenders and barged them out of the way en route to joining in with the celebrations with the fans. In all of that, Luke O’Nien belly flopped on top of a fella still recovering from falling over the advertising hoardings.
Those celebrations meant a lot. We can talk about the togetherness between fans and players and owners, but those celebrations were something different. For months we have been talking about not being able to just show up and expect a result, that we shouldn’t be arrogant. In the past 5-10 seasons we have never been arrogant. A cowering whimpering stray dog perhaps. But not arrogant. In those celebrations we saw arrogance in abundance, but it was for the right reasons. It wasn’t because we’re a club bigger than anyone in the league it was because we had more grit, more fight and more determination than anyone else. We Are Sunderland means something again. Thank you lads. You’ve given us pride again.