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.
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.