Salut! Sunderland wishes to pay tribute to Niall Quinn, who has announced today that he is leaving Sunderland football club to return to Ireland and concentrate on business and family interests there.
It is little exaggeration to say it feels like the loss of a family member.
Niall Quinn was a wonderful player for Sunderland, overcoming career-threatening injury to score 61 times in 203 appearances between 1996 and 2002, though even that impressive tally does no justice to the immense part he played in making Kevin Phillips a goalscoring sensation on Wearside. I have hinted at this before: Niall’s contribution to that marvellous partnership can arguably be rated at 51 per cent.
And then he returned with Drumaville in 2006. Without Drumaville there would have been no instant return to the Premier. Without Niall – and, it must be said, John Hays, his vice-chairman and the only Wearside man in the consortium, without whom dealing with Chairman Bob would have been an awful lot trickier – there would have been no Drumaville takeover. And without the revolution that followed, there would have been no Ellis Short and Martin O’Neill.
In some ways, Quinn’s formal cutting of links was inevitable as soon as he stepped aside as chairman and took on the role of head of international development. It has now come about, with this statement on the official club site:
Sunderland is in an incredibly fortunate position to have a hugely talented team of people leading the football club right now.
There is a tremendous amount of energy about the place and the Board and the executive management team are a dynamic and committed group, who hold the best interests of the club at the core of all they do.
Everything is in place for Sunderland to really make a statement, which was always my aim.
From a football perspective, securing the services of Martin O’Neill has been an absolute highlight. In Martin we have a man that understands the region, the club and the unique place it holds in the lives of its supporters and I am confident that he will harness the immense passion that exists here and take us to new heights.
As for the great Sunderland fans, I would like to thank them for the trust they placed in me.
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Ellis Short said: “Niall Quinn is and always will be a Sunderland legend. His vision brought me into the club and that vision still inspires what we do. He has been a trusted friend and advisor to me throughout our time together at Sunderland and whilst I’m sad about his departure, I respect his view that his ‘work is done’. My job is to carry on that work.
“He has been a wonderful servant to Sunderland and his determination to see the club grow has been inspirational.”
And Martin O’Neill added: “Niall has been a truly iconic figure at Sunderland, both as a player and in his time leading the club from the top. His vision and drive, alongside that of Ellis, played a significant part in me coming here. Like everyone, I couldn’t be more disappointed that he has decided to step down but of course I respect and understand his decision.
“He has been the heartbeat of the football club for so long and his legacy is immeasurable. To me he is ‘Mr Sunderland’ – and always will be.”