CHAIRMAN Niall Quinn remains fully committed to the Sunderland cause, despite claims over the weekend that Manchester City are eyeing his services.
Sunday newspapers have suggested that moneybags Manchester City are preparing to make an offer to the Irishman to move to the Etihad Stadium as a replacement for disgraced chief executive Garry Cook, who was forced to resign over an email which mocked the cancer of former Black Cats loanee Nedum Onuoha’s mother.
But the Echo understands from senior sources at Sunderland that far from being tempted by any outside offer, Quinn is more committed than ever to ensuring Sunderland realises its potential and has developed ever closer ties with owner Ellis Short as a result.
Quinn, with his impeccable reputation in football established both on and off the field, would be a perfect choice if City were looking for a moral compass and an inspirational figurehead.
But the chairman has no intention of leaving Sunderland as he looks to see through the project he first started when he put together the Drumaville Consortium to take control of the Wearsiders in 2006.
Quinn said at the time that he wanted to restore Sunderland to its position among the leading clubs in the country and promised to take fans on ‘a magic carpet ride’.
He has been true to his word – bankrolled first by Drumaville and then billionaire owner Ellis Short – lifting the club from the bottom of the Championship to a point where they are now enjoying their fifth season in the top flight.
But despite the fact that the Wearsiders have come a long way since Quinn returned as chairman, the 44-year-old will not consider his work complete until Sunderland are established, not simply as a Premier League club, but one of its leading clubs.
The links with Manchester City may have emerged because of his formers links with the Blues – he played for City between 1990 and ‘96 and was popular on the terraces before Peter Reid brought him to Sunderland.
The chairman also has good links with City’s football administrator Brian Marwood, a Seaham-born Sunderland supporter and a former team-mate of Quinn at Arsenal.
But though City may have looked at Quinn as a potential replacement for Cook, the belief is that they are looking less for a figurehead and more for a ruthless football money-making machine in the mould of former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon.
Regardless of any offer coming in from City or not, Quinn’s passion remains for Sunderland.
The chairman has found the going tough at Sunderland over the last few months and admits that the weight of expectation among fans is always a challenge. He also found the depth of anger and disappointment among fans in the wake of the recent derby defeat, dispiriting.
On top of that, there have been rumours that he has become disillusioned in a job that he always said he did not see himself as holding for life.
But Quinn has never been a quitter and earlier this year he was talking about how excited he was with the appointment of former foreign secretary David Miliband to the board and the doors that the appointment could potentially open for Sunderland.
Behind the scenes, the Black Cats are looking at the scope for more foreign investment with the chairman possibly making a visit to South Korea next month as he tries to make Sunderland into a global brand.
Far from becoming a more peripheral or isolated figure, Quinn is at the heart of driving the club forward in conjunction with Short and believes that potentially the future could hardly be brighter for the club.