NIALL Quinn’s leaving of the club yesterday could hardly have been in greater contrast to that of his arrival as new Sunderland chairman in 2006.
Standing, arms aloft in front of the West Stand a little under half-a-dozen years ago, trademark grin on his face as the massed ranks of cameras clicked; happily accepting the well wishes of elated fans, you could almost feel the optimism starting to flow up the Wear with each passing minute.
The warm July sunshine which beamed down only heightened the sense of a new dawn following the completion of the cash-rich Drumaville Consortium’s takeover.
And rarely can a new dawn have been more badly needed.
Sunderland’s relegation in May that year – their third in the space of a decade had been accomplished on the back of a Premier League record low points total: a shameful 15 points.
Quinn’s predecessor, Bob Murray, had delivered the Stadium of Light to Sunderland. The Academy of Light too. He had been a safe pair of hands as chief custodian over the course of two decades and supervised the successful switch from Roker Park.
But by that summer he was unable to maintain the club’s top flight presence and was weary of the continual criticism which came his way.
He was replaced by not only the youngest chairman in the club’s history by some distance, but also its most articulate.
Once upon a time, Quinny had played a good game for Sunderland. Now he talked one. And his enthusiasm was infectious.
It’s easy to forget how low spirits Sunderland had sunk that May.
And despite Quinn’s arrival, things were not helped by first-choice Martin O’Neill’s decision to turn the manager’s job down and Quinn making a poor start after appointing himself boss.
He was not helped by players lacking confidence or interest, but the shock appointment of Manchester United legend Roy Keane produced blast-off for the club as the c onsortium’s cash kicked in.
Sunderland have barely looked back since as the club pushed on towards the goal of achieving its original five-year plan – Sunderland’s promotion, the club’s establishment in the Premier League and eventual pursuit of European places.
The consortium were no longer in charge and Keane had left too, before that target was in sight.
But on the eve of his departure, Niall Quinn can take enormous satisfaction from the fact that Sunderland are looking over into the Promised Land he sought so passionately for them.
READ the full feature in today’s Echo