Sunderland legend Niall Quinn backs Mark Campbell's takeover to start an unbelievable journey - on one condition
Niall Quinn believes Sunderland’s new ownership can lead the club on an unbelievable journey...
...if they can harness the passion of the support.
Quinn has offered his take on the impending takeover of the club, Jack Ross’ first season in the dugout and the future for the Black Cats.
Quinn, who was returning to Wearside as part of the club’s inaugural Hall of Fame celebrations, remains a keen follower of Sunderland and their on- and off-field fortunes.
Indeed it would be hard not to, given the all-encompassing role he has played at the Stadium of Light over the last two decades – as player, manager and chairman.
And which such a holistic view of all matters relating to the club, Quinn is well-placed to offer his view on the takeover talk surrounding the Black Cats.
Mark Campbell and a consortium of English businessmen are expected to obtain a majority shareholding at the club in the coming weeks - spelling the start of a new era at Sunderland.
While Quinn, who himself helped lead the Drumaville Consortium that took control of the Wearsiders in 2006, is keen not to pre-empt anything, he has a simple piece of advice for Campbell and the Black Cats’ new owners.
And it is one that he feels, if acted upon, could see Sunderland go on an incredible journey.
“Believe. Believe in the passion that this place has and play to that,” he said.
“If anybody comes in, have a word with the players and say that Sunderland expects a particular approach and way of committing yourself to the club.
“The type of football that Sunderland play, the heart comes first.
“If you can up that dial a little bit, and really reach for the stars, I think both the new owners, the current guys and the players will go on a journey that they won’t believe.”
Quinn believes current manager Ross will be key to that journey - having backed him to deliver success at the Stadium of Light next season.
While some quarters of the club’s fanbase remain unconvinced by the former St Mirren chief, Quinn believes he did a fine job in what were testing circumstances last season.
And despite play-off heartache, the Sunderland legend believes Ross and his squad will be better equipped for a promotion push next season.
Quinn now hopes the lessons learned from his own heartbreak in 1998 will inspire the current crop on Wearside - insisting that promotion next year will feel even sweeter.
And he has encouraged the club’s new ownership to make sure Ross receives the necessary backing this summer to ensure the club can continue on an upward trajectory.
“Under restrictive circumstances, I thought he did a brilliant job,” said the 52-year-old.
“The expectation was huge, yet the level of investment just couldn’t happen because the club was in the position it was.
“Losing (Josh) Maja was tough, but they went so damn close to doing it all. It’s heartbreaking.
“But I would see them being better for that, because I point back to when Charlton beat us in my day [in the 1998 play-off final], and we came back the next year and we were out of sight by March.
“We had the league won and we were all ready for the Premier League, we were stronger that year later.
“So I hope he holds onto his best players, and everybody hopes there’s some additions, and it gels and gets even stronger.
“I think the greatest victory isn’t the easy ones, it’s the ones you’ve had to work for. And when the chips are down, and you come back and you do something - like promotion a year after you’ve lost in the play-offs - it’s very special.
“I hope the players buy into that. They had a tough day at Wembley, but I hope they looked one another in the eye before they departed for the summer and said ‘no play-offs next year, we’ll go straight up’.
“I think the manager is the man to do that, and I hope he gets the right backing.”
Quinn was back in Sunderland as he became one of the first eleven players inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
Such an honour isn’t lost on Quinn, whose discussions with Jimmy Montgomery and Bobby Kerr on the evening only reinforced the history that had taken place prior to his arrival in 1996.
“It’s unbelievable,” he admitted.
“When Rob Mason [club historian] rang me and asked if I would accept, the hairs were up on the neck and the arms, everything.
“It was a ‘wow’ moment for me, because I know there’s an awful lot of history that took place in this club before I ever got here.”
And with a new chapter of the club’s history set to be written under the guidance of Mark Campbell - Quinn has one final piece of advice for the club’s new custodians.
Work hard, and the fans will respond.
“The encouragement that I got and the ethic of the region really rubbed off on me,” he added.
“I worked hard and the fans appreciated that.
“The harder I worked, the better things got.”