Gary Rowell: Quinn exit is a blow to Sunderland

Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn

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I WAS shocked and a bit disappointed by the news this week that Niall Quinn had left Sunderland for good.

His impact on the club has been astonishing, probably as much as any individual in the club’s history because he has been player, manager, chairman, director – it wouldn’t surprise me if he also found time to fix the plumbing and do the electrics!

His influence on the course of Sunderland Football Club has been immense and he is right up there with the most iconic figures the club has ever been associated with.

His commitment to Sunderland was total and was emphasised by the fact that he didn’t just come to the club.

He came back. And he came back when there was no pressure or demand for him to do so.

If you show fans you genuinuely love the club, they will always take you to their hearts.

And that’s what fans did with Quinny.

No one has ever connected with the fans, in my opinion, as well as he has done.

He said the right things and did the right things and the supporters believed in him and were proud of him.

Now he’s gone, the fans will only wish him well. But it’s a difficult one to take.

I personally wish he had stayed on to the summer because things have become really exciting at Sunderland right now and I felt no one deserved to be more a part of that, and to enjoy it, more than Quinny.

Fans have been living in dreamland since Martin O’Neill’s arrival and are still dreaming that the season can see more progress made in the league and in the FA Cup. If there’s a few more glory days just around the corner before the end of the campaign, I can’t help feeling Niall had every right to be basking in them.

For half-a-decade or more, Niall has been the figure-head of the club, the person the fans have latched on to and identified with and it is going to feel very different with him not being around – even given the fact he’d scaled back his public profile dramatically when he stepped down as chairman last October.

It’s going to be a gap the club should not expect to plug, simply because I don’t think there’s a better public face for a club in football than Quinny.

Looking back at his time at the club, his legacy is assured.

He could have left the club for good as a player and he would still have been a legend to fans but in many ways his playing days marked only the beginning of his time here.

Sunderland was in his blood and he organised the takeover with a vision of what he wanted to achieve. It’s doubtful whether the consortium would have succeeded quite as well as it did, had it not been fronted by Niall.

The momentum the club gathered at times was astonishing and it’s hard to think of anyone who has had such an effect. There have been great players before at Sunderland but great players hardly ever end up in the club’s boardroom as chairman later.

The position of football club chairman is one where, the most you can realistically hope for is to be respected. Some, a very few, are loved.

Quinny managed both at Sunderland and that’s probably the ultimate measure of the man.

READ the full column in today’s Echo