SUNDERLAND’S Max Power has described how difficult it was to endure “the toughest few days" of his career following his third red card of the season, having felt he had to hide away fearing he would have to serve another lengthy ban.

Such were Power’s frustrations and embarrassment after he was sent off at Walsall on Saturday for a strong challenge on Liam Kinsella, the loan signing from Wigan did not even want to take his children to school at the beginning of the week.

In the end the Football Association agreed with Sunderland’s appeal to have the red card rescinded and he was in the team that beat Barnsley on Tuesday night, which would have been the first of a five-match ban.

Power had never been sent off before his move to Sunderland, which is set to become permanent in January, but that suspension would have meant he had missed 15 games in the first half of the season for Sunderland courtesy of his three dismissals.

While the 25-year-old played reasonably well against Barnsley, he definitely lacked some of his tenacity in the middle because he was desperate to avoid being sent off at the Stadium of Light, like he was against Oxford earlier in the campaign before his second at Bradford.

“Someone asked me whether the pressure of playing for such a big club has got to me and I’d say no,” said Power. “After Saturday you’re starting to think something’s gone wrong here, have I upset someone? I don’t know. It was a really tough few days.

“I’ve bought into the club, I live in the area. As you can imagine, doing the school run has been tough at times but that’s a decision I’ve made.

“First and foremost I’m a parent with two young kids who come first in everything. Monday and Tuesday I didn’t take them to school and that wasn’t a nice feeling knowing I’ve had to, not hide from problems, but lock myself away.

“I was really hit by the decision. It would have been tough to deal with if I hadn’t won the appeal. On Tuesday I didn’t feel like I could put my stamp on the game but the manager put me in and I probably needed to get over a mental hurdle. I got through 90 minutes and hopefully now I can kick-start my career.”

Sunderland manager Jack Ross leapt to Power’s defence immediately after the full-time whistle had been blown at Walsall, claiming the challenge on Kinsella didn’t even warrant a caution never mind a red. Saddlers boss Dean Keates also suggested Sunderland should appeal.

Power said: “As a player that is really important. I’ve played under other managers who probably wouldn’t have dealt with it as this manager has.

“To know I’ve had the support of the manager, the coaching staff, the lads have rallied around as well. It was a strange few days in terms of the emotions.

“When the Barnsley game started I felt mentally drained. It didn’t help that they were a good side and we had a bit of a change of formation in the first half as well. That formation showed how devastating we can be but when we get pinned back it can be quite tough.

“Getting through the game was the biggest thing for me and I look forward to Walsall at the weekend now, so I can build up some match-fitness and get back to the performances I showed early in my Sunderland career.”

Even if Power is able to build up his match fitness and return to the sort of form he knows he can deliver by clearing his mind, he knows he will never want a repeat of what he has encountered.

“It’s probably been the toughest few days of my career to date, a roller-coaster of emotions as you can imagine,” he said. “It was disappointing for that to happen again and I was in shock more than anything.

“When the ball broke loose on Saturday in a split second I actually thought, ‘stay on your feet,’ which I did. Their lad went in at some velocity and in real time it looked worse than it was but luckily we had footage from different angles to show I didn’t make contact with my foot, it was my trailing leg which caught him on his thigh.

“I was disappointed with the Walsall players’ reactions but I understand it. They’ll feel they have a better chance of winning the game against ten men. I know it goes on and I think that maybe swayed the ref (Craig Hicks) but I’ve got no grudges against the ref, we all make mistakes.

“I’m just delighted I had a bit of justice because it’s been a tough few days mentally. I took a lot of criticism and it’s been tough.”

He added: “I think anyone who knows me knows how bubbly I am around the training ground and on Monday I barely said a word to anyone. It was tough. I had to train not knowing what was going to happen but I’m just happy I managed to get the decision in my favour this time.

“I get the criticism from the fans. If you’re sat at home on Saturday watching the telly and it pops up that I’ve been sent off, I know everyone’s going to jump to conclusions. I’m a committed player. Do I have to curb the way I play? Hopefully not.

“The thought of being suspended again, until after Christmas, and the mental side of it was tough. Tuesday was possibly the toughest game of my career to get through in terms of everything. I spoke to a referee I know on Sunday evening who said he’d be very surprised if the appeal was successful so as you’d imagine I didn’t sleep very well on Sunday night.

“As much criticism as I’ve taken, I‘d like to say thanks to a lot of the fans who’ve stood by me as well. You get good and bad in football and I can deal with that – I’m a big boy, thick-skinned. It was just the thought of missing a lot more football and knowing I’m not that type of player.

“The Bradford red card was an act of silliness and not really in my character. The tackle against Oxford could possibly have been a yellow card but on Saturday I knew I hadn’t really made contact, the lad writhed around and the ref was surrounded by players.

“Some people probably still think it was a red, that’s football, everyone’s got an opinion. I’m just delighted it’s been overturned.”

Sunderland will head into Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Walsall confident after extending their unbeaten run to 14 games by defeating Barnsley. Power is expected to start again because he has missed so many this season.