Niall Quinn: a colossus departs, with our heartiest thanks

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:


I’ve had the most amazing six years and it gives me a huge sense of pride to see where Sunderland is today.

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.

Get the best out of Salut! Sunderland: go to the home page by clicking anywhere in this paragraph, bookmark it and use it for each visit to the site. That was way you see all six most recent articles highlighted …

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.”

Thanks, Niall, and good luck.

* The Kindle tribute, by Hannah Elizabeth, and the autobiography can be bought at Salut! Sunderland’s Amazon link. Click here.

Colin Randall

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18 thoughts on “Niall Quinn: a colossus departs, with our heartiest thanks”

  1. Until some of the recent statues which have been erected outside football grounds, I would have thought that building such a tribute to a man still living and only in his 40s would be unusual.

    It’s a challenge to even consider where this club would be now had Niall not stepped up to the plate when he did. It really doesn’t bear thinking about. His transformation was as much down to his persona and character as it was to anything else, to the point where I genuinely doubt whether anything like it could have been achieved by anyone else.

    His comments on departing are wise ones. His work is done. Niall was the right man at the right time. There is little doubt that the club needs other skills and the highest business acumen, but that is due completely to the platform which NQ created. His character and candour are going to be hugely missed though. Is there a similar example of what an ex player can do when he became a chairman? I don’t think so.

    Now where are we going to put that statue?

  2. I was struck today by the way that people I spoke to, even the most fervent Newcastle fans, said how much they liked and respected him. It is a rare thing for anyone to earn such universal affection. He was a talisman for Sunderland, someone that you felt was special and that we were privileged have amongst us. He commanded respect and gave respect back. We might have been a struggling club in an unfashionable area of the country but he recognised the worth of the club and it’s supporters. We will miss him.

  3. There can be no one who has done more to raise the status of Sunderland than Niall. We all owe him an enormous debt for lifting the gloom of the fifteen point season and in making courageous and bold decisions in leading us back to the Premiership and hopefully, to success. A true Sunderland legend.
    I only hope there is nothing sinister behind it all.

  4. Thank you Naill. Had the pleasure of meeting him years ago with Tommy Sorensen at a branch meeting – after midnight when he left – every request and photograph done with a smile. Little did I think that night what an effect he would have on our club. To the team he has left in charge – once again SAFC has the chance to build secure and long term success. Nothing would be better than to have Naill visiting in the future watching his club even more successful’ Name whatever you want after him – it gets my supp.ort

  5. We are going to miss his wise words, spoken in his soft Irish tone reflecting everything good about our club. Wherever you go in the country people talk of their respect for him and that could only have been good for the representation of Sunderland as a football club, certainly off the field.

    Everything Quinn said about Sunderland seemed to reflect what we all thought as fans of the club. It was almost as if the world wouldn’t listen to us as individuals, so we translated our feelings and genuine ambitions for our fine club through Niall.

    “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.” These wise words, once more spoken in a soft Irish tone, albeit a Northern Irish one, also translate our feelings to the world, this time how each and every one of us feel about Niall.

    These words present the saving grace in all of this. As Niall leaves we must remind ourselves that all of his work has brought us Martin O’Neill. Had this decision been made without the comfort of someody of the calibre of Martin at the helm, i would be very worried. As Quinn himself pointedout, Martin also understands the culture of Wearside and words like these leave me convinced that all will be ok.

    Quinn needed someone like O’Neill to deliver before he left and there is irony in all of this somewhere, in that he was behind Bruce for as long as he was. He has clearly wanted to get back to his family for a while but needed the security of our future on and off the field in place. Sacking Bruce earlier may have released him earlier. I am sure that this is the case. Imagine the thought of us struggling with Bruce still here and THEN Quinn leaving? Dont think too hard, it will give you nightmares.

  6. Agree with all of the above. Undoubtedly the most positively influential person at Sunderland in my lifetime. I have met him a couple of times and heard him speak many other times and have never been anything but impressed. A man full of dignity, honesty and humour and, despite a decent challenge from Steve Gibson, the best chairman any club has had in my 40 years of following football.
    I would also like to take the chance to apologise for cursing him at Bury (1998 I think) when he first came back from injury. He said he was fully fit and was utterly awful. It took him another couple of weeks to get genuinely fit and the change was incredible. That day at Bury was the only day in 2 Sunderland careers when I heard anyone say a bad word about him.

  7. Very sorry that he’s going. There can hardly be a Sunderland supporter who hasn’t met him in person – he seemed to know everyone. However, he said from the beginning that he saw it as a 5 year role and he’s stayed slightly longer. I agree with Aussie Mackem that naming a stand would be a fitting tribute.

  8. A true legend on and off the pitch, without Nials efforts we would not be where we are now.

    Very sad to see him go, how different it might have been had MON been available when Nial still as Chairman first tried to get him.

  9. It’s a sad thing, to see Niall leave, but we knew we couldn’t keep him forever.

    One of footballs true gentlemen and a SAFC legend.

    I would love to see SAFC pay tribute to Sir Niall and his discopants by naming a stand after him. All the best Quinny.

  10. Niall always said after he gave up playing only one club would tempt him back into football and that club was Sunderland. The amount of time and energy he gave back to the club has been phenomenal and I don’t think there is a Sunderland fan who would see the club in the position it is today without him.

    I suspect that once he was no longer Chairman he was always intent on pursuing other interests but delayed his departure so as not to rock the boat. This move is probably in his best interests, but I can’t help but feel that the club will be weaker without his influence around the place.

    I will always remember him for donating the proceeds of his testimonial year to the children’s hospitals, which is a mark of the man’s character.

    His brief spell in charge of the team maybe best forgotton, but even then he was busy working on persuading Roy Keane to come in and rescue, what was at the time, a dire situation.

    In the annals of Sunderland AFC Quinny will go down as a true legend, on and off the pitch. Good Luck Sir!

  11. It is a sad occasion but his statement makes clear that he remains a supporter, and for that we can be grateful.

  12. Somehow fitting that Niall should go after our great performance on Saturday, which showed how far we have come in the past few years. He is uniquely decent and committed, not just to football but to the relationship between football and community. There is no one else in the game that I can think of who has combined those qualities of decency and ambition. Good luck to him for the future

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