Soapbox: was Niall crowded out? Plus, a tough tie at Everton

Another gem from Jake

Pete Sixsmith
adds some more thoughts on Niall Quinn’s departure and wonders whether Saturday’s pitiful turnout for the Arsenal game, while not the direct cause of a decision almost certainly made some time ago, was part of a process that had made the great man wonder about the supporters’ response to the transformation he engineered …

News of Niall Quinn leaving the club reached me as I was ironing a shirt and listening to some obscure discussion about equations on Start The Week. It came in the form of a text message from Monsieur Salut and I at first thought his reference to Niall was regarding the pitiful attendance at the 5th Round FA Cup game against Arsenal on Saturday.

Completing my ironing, I went to my trusty Toshiba in order to read the club statement re the departure of Sir Niall of the Disco Pants.

It was the usual anodyne stuff that comes from any corporate organisation when somebody leaves. I bet RBS said similar things about Fred Goodwin when he left, rather than telling the truth and calling him a ….(libel laws appertain to this).

I recall Niall saying that he would probably be at Sunderland for five years before he moved on and hoping that the Football Five Year Rule, much touted by me, would not apply in his case. He managed another one on top of the five and this is probably the right time for him to return to his family and business interests in Ireland.

He leaves the club in rude good health after taking over something that looked to be heading for the scrapheap. No Red and White fan will ever forget the contribution that this most honest and genuine of men has made to Sunderland AFC, with his talk of magic carpet rides and challenging the old order.

We hope that he leaves the club in good hands. He played a major part in recruiting Martin O’Neill, so the playing side looks fine, and, so far, Ellis Short has been as sure footed as a mountain goat in the way that he has dealt with things.

Presumably this decision had been made a while ago, as the role that Niall had in the club was not one that fitted his profile; David Miliband, with his experience as Foreign Secretary yes; Niall Quinn with his experience as a football man, probably no. And maybe Niall was becoming tired of trying to coax the armchair Sunderland fans away from their firesides and pub screens and into the Stadium of Light.

Saturday is a good case in point as little more than 22,000 of our fans made the journey to the Stadium for the most important game of the season so far. Prices were reasonable (£20 and £10), the opposition was good and the team have been playing well. But the crowd figure was awful and must have come as a bitter disappointment to those who own and run the club.

There are reasons: the game was on terrestrial TV; it was a cold night; money is tight in the region; the kick off time was an awkward one; Arsenal had won at the SoL the week before. All of these would have contributed to a reduction in the size of the gate, but not to the extent that actually occurred.

It would be interesting to know how many season ticket holders had bothered to pick up their tickets – and how many will bother to pick them up if we do make it to Wembley x2. Maybe priority should go to those who actually coughed up their £20 on Saturday should we be in such a fortuitous position come April and May.

The draw is a very difficult one. Away to a team who are coming into form and who appear to have the Indian Sign over us, is not quite what we wanted – and looking at the 10 teams left, only Spurs away (sorry Stevenage, but they can’t be as awful in the replay as they were on Sunday) would have been tougher.

Jake in upbeat mood

Moyes and O’Neill are both pragmatists who build sides that are high on energy and inspiration with a dash of romantic genius thrown in. Both managers have had some excellent results recently and are desperate to win something. Sunderland and Everton have much in common.

That Living Museum of the 60s, aka Goodison Park, will be packed to the rafters and, presuming the kick off is at a decent time, should have a wonderful atmosphere with 3,000 Sunderland fans crammed into a replica of the Roker Park Main Stand. I’m looking forward to a pint or two in The Globe and The Caernarvon Castle already.

It looks like Steve Bruce is favourite for the Wolves job. He is a decent manager who lost his way a wee bit with us, but he recruited some very good players and O’Neill is finally getting them to play. If he does get to succeed Mick McCarthy, I hope that he is treated generously by Sunderland fans when Wolves come calling in April.

He signed Cattermole (touted as an outside bet for Euro 2012 by Louise Taylor in this mornings Guardian – rare among reports of the match in that it concentrated as much on our strengths as Arsenal’s weaknesses), Sessegnon (look again at how he outstripped the Arsenal “defence” for the second goal), Larsson (as hardworking a player as I have ever seen in a Sunderland strip) and most of the others. He deserves enormous credit for that, just as O’Neill does for getting them organised.

And none of this would have happened without Niall Quinn.

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop

23 thoughts on “Soapbox: was Niall crowded out? Plus, a tough tie at Everton”

  1. Many thanks to Quinny for all he did for the club, Keane and O’Neill in particular (let’s draw a veil over Sbragia and Bruce). As to priority for tickets being given to those who went to Saturday’s game, absolute rubbish. Season ticket holders should get priority as they have given money for the season up front and committed to the club, as opposed to some on Saturday who will have turned up purely to see Arsenal in the cup, yet somhow you think it makes them more deserving of a cup ticket. Disappointing emotional knee-jerk nonsense from someone whose opinion I normally respect!

    • I didn’t read the original article as suggesting that those who paid £20 to go on Saturday should get priority over everyone else, but that where the number of tickets are limited priority should go to those Season Card holders who have the record of most attendances first and foremost.

      That would mean that the priority would be – those SCH with a record of three or more away ticket purchases, then those who have two extra tickets – for the home cup ties or away games.

      Of course there may be some fans who live away from the N.E. and can’t make midweek games so haven’t got a Season Card but make a lot of away games. These are now recorded via the registration scheme, but as tickets for most away games are sold out and SCH have first dabs I should think there won’t be that many.

      • Been in here many a time even being a Geordie but even the greatest of Sunderland supporter would be taking Louise’s comments with a pince of salt as there is no way Cattermole is a England international unless they ate looking for a new Carlton Palmer. Sunderland have much better players in midfield when he isn’t playing. Cannot wait until the derby……….

  2. I get the feeling that this has happened now in some part because of MONs success.To remove Niall from the club would have beeen a very brave decison at the start of the season,but most supporters responsde is now muted as we see a way forward without him now.

    Niall is my favourite player and my favourite Chairman (though my least favourate mananger),I doubt I will ever see better than him at this club.

    As he once famously said that Sunderland Football Club “got under his skin”…well Niall got under all our skins too.

  3. It just seems to me that, if anything, Quinn would have been the more likely party in making Short taking over as chiarman. If he thought Bruce’s time was up he was probably too loyal and nice to go through with actually dismissing him. Seems exaggerated, and it would be away from the world of football.

    Kieth, I would be amazed. As we have all indicated, Quinn can’t do a lot more for us outside of some sort of ambassadorial role in which he excels so much, so in theory we would allow him to join another club with our best wishes. If he were to do this though, it would be against everything he claims to stand for.

    This was apparently a project driven by love and his desire to see us stay away from the hellish realities witnessed by fallen heavyweights such as Leeds, Forest and Sheffield Wednesday. He as always appeared kind of reluctant to do it. Kind of like clearing up a mess for an incompetent family member. To go and join the world’s richest club and use his specialities in P.R, and try and convince us all we should buy into this despicable notion of having reserves play 10 games a season while earning 100 grand a week, seems too far fetched. Hopefully.

  4. Dennis Tueart made a statement some months ago that Quinn was the ideal man for Man City and he could see no reason for him not coming, could Niall possible have had his head turned I would like to think NOT

  5. Yes I agree with you Goldy. I do think that he will feel his work is done, and for that reason alone I think that there is no reason to harbour bitterness towards Ellis Short in this. Niall recognises that he had a limited duration in the role as chairman and that eventually he would have to leave in order for the club to progress. Some may see him as a victim of his own success, but I wouldn’t like to put it quite like that. He acknowledges his lack of formal education and business experience, but the fact that someone who left school at 16 and did nothing but play football for the rest of his life could do what he did for us is nothing short of astonishing. Great bloke.

  6. I see your point, I really do and couldn’t rule that theory out. As you say, we may never know the exact truth. Certainly when Quinn took up his new role I thought it was an indication of Short stepping up to the plate as he thought Quinn may not have been ruthless enough in dismissing Bruce. Quinn has never sacked a manager yet.

    People love a conspiracy theory, however, and I honestly believe that Quinn is leaving now off his own back and hasn’t particularly been undermined at all. The international development post, or whatever it was, may have been a smokescreen to some extent but I am in no doubt that Quinn, true to his word, is leaving because he feels his work is done.

  7. For me CSB nailed this issue with the very first response. It also in part explains to me why Niall stuck so loyally with Bruce when it was evident that Bruce was failing. In some way, and certainly in the eyes of Ellis Short, the ultimate fate of both Niall and Mrs Doubtfire were inextricably linked in some way. This may never have been spoken, but it would also appear that NQ knew that either his departure or that of Bruce would not be far apart. It may not have been quite as clear cut as that, but I can’t help but feel that the astonishing transformation under MON with exactly the same players may have tainted Niall’s reputation with the owner. Indeed, how could it have been otherwise? Had MON signed half a dozen players in the window, it could have been argued that the new blood had been instrumental in the transformation, but that is not the case.

    Regardless of the huge appreciation that all SAFC fans have for NQ’s achievements etc, Mr Short would be entititled to the view that perhaps Nialls’ contribution now should end. That would be a business decision based on good practice and without sentiment. Mr Short understands the enormity of NQ’s contribution but does not share the same history that NQ has with the supporters. His playing career and arrival with the Drumaville consortium are written large in the minds of all of us, but they predate Ellis Short’s involvement, and he doesn’t have the same emotional attachment to Quinn that the rest of us do. That is no criticism of anyone involved. That’s just the way it is.

    Quinn’s loyalty to Bruce may have been driven by an awareness that they both would fall together, and that suggests to me that Quinn’s heart was neither in leaving as chairman or in ending his relationship with the club. The role he took on as departing as chairman was regarded as some kind of sinecure offered to him in order to save face. The evidence for such an assertion is clear from the short term in which he has held this office. There have been no significant stides forward resulting from this role, and the harsh reality is essentially that he was was jumping as he was pushed, from at least from his position as chairman. It’s a smooth corporate manouevre, the likes of which are seen in boardrooms across the business world every day, and if so, then it is a very sad day. It happens to the best of people and reminds me of the time that Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple.

    Quinn’s legacy will surely outlive all of us, as it is a lasting one. He has a special place in all of our hearts and his contribution will never be forgotten. Sunderland AFC has a special place on NQ’s heart too, and his affiliation with us will stay with him until his dying breath, even if he is just a fan like the rest of us now.

  8. you’ll get around 6000 tkts for goodison park.. or the grand old lady as we call it!!! atmosphere will be great and even better if its a night match!! just one thing tho’.. will you stop going on about yer car stereos being robbed.. we’re digital now!!

  9. I don’t think there was any way in which Quinn was pushed out or anything like that.

    I wouldn’t dismiss what CSB has said totally, however, as Short may have decided that due to his judgement call of sacking Bruce, possibly against Quinn’s wishes confirmed to him that he is now competent enough in running the club without Quinn nursing him through it.

    This doesn’t suggest to me, however, that Short concluded that Quinn should leave because of this, rather it was always on the agenda that the reigns would be handed over fully once this stage was reached, however it was reached and whatever it was that clarified it so. Quinn always said he would leave when we were in a comfortable position.

    It is going to be interesting to see which way the club’s P.R starts to evolve now, as Quinn was the perfect ambassador for it and that is a potential negative hovering the whole thing. I am interested in how the transfer targets in the summer materialise, regarding how much money Short will allow O’Neill to spend on improving the playing staff. There is a genuine concern to me that his lack of football knowledge may guide him into deciding that we don’t need to bring in any new players. That this quite remarkable run of form which we have had may cloud his judgement meaning that, in his eyes, what we have is good enough to challenge near the top.

    Keep the faith!!!!!

  10. Two anecdotes from an earlier tribute to the man ( )

    …. an intermediary had arranged for me to interview Niall before the Roy Keane promotion season home game with QPR. He promised to go ahead with it even when a corporate obstacle appeared.

    The only reason it never happened was one that made me happy to have lost out: he used the time instead to make a gravely (maybe terminally) ill little girl feel welcome and special inside the boardroom. And he put the youngster ahead of a much grander media guest, his former Arsenal colleague Alan Smith, greeting him with a warm “Hiya Smudger” but pressing ahead with that much more important appointment.

    … there isn’t much wrong with a man who, asked to autograph his autobiography with a reassuring message in one of those seasons when we were heading for a record low points tally for the Premier, is so aware – even in December – of the way the wind is blowing that he scratches his head and writes instead: “Keep the faith.”

    Pete Sixmith, for whom the book was signed, and I, who requested the signature (as well as getting a reference, for my own copy, to that unforgettable night Quinny both scored and kept goal as a substitute for Tommy, at Bradford in 1999), would have kept the faith anyway. Having Niall in charge has made it an easier and happier choice.

  11. Farewell and thank you Niall. Great player, great chairman and more importantly a great person! Total gentleman……..think we should lobby for a knighthood!

  12. NQ, for me, will ALWAYS be a legend at SAFC.

    At this point, what interests me far more than the past is the (recent) present.


    Does anyone have any “inside” info’ on what precipitated his decision?


  13. Should we (no chicken counting here) get through to the semis and hopefully beyond then of course priority should be given in strict order to those who have attended most games. In these computerised barcoded (no reference to those up the road intended) days the club have records to confirm all purchases – except the cash turnstile ones.

    I’m still not over the Play Off final season when I attended 43 games home and away but because tickets were only available (in person or via the extremely jammed phone lines) at a time when I was at work in the Midlands I missed out and had to watch on telly.

    This compounded by the stories of those who queued and got tickets when they’d never even been to a Sunderland match before.

  14. Good luck to the big fella.

    When he has a the string of horses and wins the Gold Cup at Cheltenham I hope the horse is named Disco Pants!!

  15. (By the way, re Goodison, you’ll also get to hear the Z-Cars theme as the teams run out, that was OUR tune too, I’m still sobbing…)

  16. I agree with the idea that priority should be given to those who attended on Saturday, should we progress. This didn’t happen in 73. I remember being amongst a tiny crowd at Roker Park for an Anglo Italian Cup match (Lazio or Fiorentina I think), on entering the ground we were given forms to fill in, the idea being “if you’re daft enough to come and watch this sh*te you MUST be a loyal supporter”. It promised priority for any future big games. Well not long after this we were at Wembley and we used a lottery system to dish out the valuable tickets. I lost. At the time Wembley held 100,000 and we got about 20,000 tickets, a disgrace! I’d never missed a home game for years and was angry that I personally knew bandwagon-jumpers who got tickets because they got lucky in the raffle. Am I still bitter? OF COURSE I AM! I remember watching the build-up on TV and seething as Russian Micro-Gymnast Olga Korbut and glittery glam-rockers The Sweet were interviewed in the celebrity lounge before the game. They were there and I wasn’t! OF COURSE I’M BITTER!! Right! I’m off now to sob uncontrollably……

  17. Yes, but I can’t help feeling that Nial Quinn would still have been with us without Bruce.

    If only MON had been available at the first attempt.

    • Actually, I’m just going to come out and say it, basically Nial Quinn unfortunately was tainted by his association with Bruce and as a result has been sucked down into the vortex that is Bruce’s incompetence, stupidity, stubborness, bloody mindedness and Wenegerish inability to see his shortcomings and in so doing was prepared to take us all to hell in a boat.

      As for his reception at the Sol, should he become Wolve’s (god help them) manager, just remember his very reasonable pay-off when he should have walked.

      He took the money, he deserves everything that will come his way.

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