NIALL Quinn has won many honours in the game but I’m sure he will regard his Honorary Freeman of Sunderland award as being as fulfilling as any of them – maybe even more.
When footballers win medals or achieve personal ambitions they are always a career highlight.
But to be recognised not only for his football but also for his contribution to the city has got to be special.
Who would have thought when he joined Sunderland back in 1996, the impact he would have both on and off the pitch?
And the many roles he would play at the club.
There’s not many individuals at any club who have been a player, a manager and a chairman and in all those roles he has had a huge influence – well, maybe not so much in the manager role!
I remember when he first came to the club, he didn’t exactly set the place alight.
But his partnership with Kevin Phillips gave him a new lease of life and he was arguably the most important figure in the Peter Reid team that was so vibrant and exciting.
When he retired, the manager found it very difficult to replace him and you could probably trace the decline of the Reid era to when Niall Quinn was no longer available to him.
When his playing days ended, it was natural to think his connection to Sunderland was over.
But he came back and had his most influential years with the club because of the importance and high profile nature of his new job.
When you are a player, you only have yourself to concentrate on but as chairman, every single aspect of the club is in your hands and is your responsibility.
Being the chairman at any club is a difficult job and in many ways a thankless task, as when things are going well, they rarely get the credit and when things go pear-shaped they always get the stick.
The fact that Niall Quinn held that high-pressure position for so long without ever losing his popularity, speaks volumes for the 100 percent trust the fans had in him.
There are certain players, certain incidents, that give football a bad name and the media are understandably quick to highlight that fact, given the profile of the sport.
But Niall Quinn seems to be one of those rare sportsmen appreciated by all, and never more than in Sunderland.