Rowell Report: Niall Quinn’s role still vital

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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THE bombshell news last week of Niall Quinn stepping down and Ellis Short stepping in, broke just too late for inclusion in my column last week.

On reflection, that was probably a good thing from my own point of view because everyone was scratching their head at the time and at least I have the benefit of the dust having had a week to settle now.

I think the first thing to say about it, is that it is unsettling from a fans’ point of view, particularly when it comes at an unsettling time generally.

Not only have we started the season poorly but all of a sudden, seemingly from nowhere as far as the public is concerned, Niall Quinn steps down as chairman and Ellis Short takes his place.

No matter how you might look to dress it up, it is a bombshell.

It’s a bombshell whenever there’s big changes at the top of any club or company and the shockwaves are felt throughout the business.

We don’t really know how it will pan out yet.

But I sense there is a nervousness that with Niall going – or at least stepping away from the chairmanship – the club will lose some of that connection with the fans that he was so good at building up.

Everyone’s hoping Niall still has a big part to play in the club because he’s still, for me, the public face of the club.

He’s still the person who connects with the fans more than anybody else and I do hope he stays in the limelight a bit, whatever his new role might be.

I can’t really see Ellis Short being that much of a public figure at the club, despite him taking up the chairmanship – it’s not really his style.

So I think hearing from Niall every now and again will be reassuring for supporters because this is definitely a big change and if he suddenly disappears from view, it’s bound to concern the fans.

Of course, all of this pales into relative insignificance compared to how the team fares on the pitch.

While fans are usually interested in what is happening on the periphery, their overwhelming concern is what happens on the pitch.

All they want to watch is good, successful football from their team – if they get that, they’ll be less and less concerned about changes further up the powerbase.

I think at the moment, the jury is out on the changes because we don’t really know what they will mean.

Change in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It can revitalise people, stretch them, give them new challenges to rise to and a few years from now, we might look back on this as a great thing: the right way forward.

For the moment though there are people who are unsettled by what has happened and, simplistic as it seems, the best way to allay those fears is for Sunderland to start playing well and showing signs of being a team and a club going forward.

To read the rest of the Rowell Report, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.