SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Fans’ hero Quinn, Partners in climb, Wallace targets big finish

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.


NIALL QUINN forked out £8,000 to ferry 80 stranded Sunderland fans back home after over-zealous airline bosses cancelled their flight.

 Quinn rallied a fleet of 18 taxis for the 310-mile trip for fans after EasyJet grounded their plane – claiming their jubilant mood was a security risk.

 But the chairman, who was also on the flight, hit back today – vehemently denying fans were badly behaved.

 Problems started as joyous fans arrived at Bristol airport for the 9.25pm return flight to Newcastle after their 1-0 victory over Cardiff on Saturday.

 Airline security ticked off fans after breaking into a chorus of “Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants” as the chairman arrived at check-in.

 After the 124-seater aircraft was boarded, concerns were raised by staff about the behaviour of fans and the plane was surrounded by police.

 Officers boarded the flight and removed 12 fans – including a man with learning difficulties and another who was cheered by fans for waving a false leg.

 The other passengers were left to wait for about an hour in their seats and were told delays were being caused by paperwork and then concerns over security, before the captain announced the flight was being cancelled.

 Two vans of police officers then arrived and escorted supporters back into the terminal.

 Fans were left stranded in the airport waiting for a flight the following day – until Quinn announced he was paying for taxis to get them all home.

 He and staff ordered a fleet of 14 taxis and four six-seater mini-buses for the trip back to Wearside.

 He also ensured others who decided to stay were safe before he and his party got in one of the cars and started their own journey home.

 The gesture left fans astounded and reaffirmed Quinn’s legend status.

 Quinn told the Echo today: “Saturday’s journey home from Cardiff was certainly one of the more eventful ones.

 “The situation developed, which led to the cancellation of a flight for the 100 or so loyal supporters.

 “Myself and members of my staff were on board this flight and vehemently oppose the airline’s view that there was disruptive behaviour on board the plane.

 “The mood was humorous and everyone was in good spirits after our fine victory.

 “Nonetheless, we were faced with a situation where our fans were stranded and needed assistance.

 “The club was happy to arrange transport back to the North East.

 “The group included children, elderly and disabled fans and their safety and wellbeing was paramount.

 “We also deny the airline’s claim that overnight accommodation was offered and this was witnessed by several independent parties.

 “Thankfully everyone returned home safely and we will now draw a line under this.”

 Supporters who got a 10am transfer yesterday were also met by police when they got back in to Newcastle.

 A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Constabulary said: “Safety is paramount in a situation like this.

 “The captain takes the final decision on who flies on his plane.

 “He decided that the football fans should not fly and we supported him in providing assistance and removed them from the airport.”

 A spokeswoman for EasyJet said: “EasyJet has a zero-tolerance policy towards any unacceptable behaviour on board or towards its staff and the flight was consequently cancelled.

 “The airline offered those passengers not involved a free transfer onto the next available flight and hotel accommodation and would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to them.”


Ward hails teamwork as Premier push is stepped up

SUNDERLAND’S developing partnerships have played a huge part in the Black Cats’ bid for automatic promotion, says Darren Ward.

 A ninth clean sheet in 14 unbeaten games helped the Wearsiders to a 1-0 triumph at stormy Cardiff City on Saturday.

 The victory kept Roy Keane’s side third in the Championship, with leaders Derby winning 2-0 at Barnsley before second-placed Birmingham’s 3-0 home win over Coventry yesterday.

 There is no sign if any of the top sides letting up, emphasising the importance of this weekend’s Easter programme, which brings Mick McCarthy’s Wolves to Wearside on Saturday followed by an Easter Monday trip to Southampton – clubs that met two days ago with the Saints claiming a stunning 6-0 win at Molineux.

 Sunderland keeper Ward said: “Easter is always a crucial period, but all of our games are big at the moment. Saturday was no different.

 “We have put ourselves in a wonderful position and hopefully we will have enough in our locker to see it through now.

 “I have no idea about how many clean sheets we have. Whatever the figure is, we are all working hard and it’s not just about me.

 “The boys in front of me are working extremely hard. There are partnerships developing there, the two centre-halves and the full-backs relationship with the centre-backs. They are all dove-tailing each other wonderfully.

 “And obviously the work starts with the boys up front. They press at the right times and we are giving ourselves a wonderful chance.”

 Gusting wind and at times driving rain spoiled Saturday’s game at Cardiff as a spectacle.

 But Keane’s men again found a winning formula again on the road – registering their tenth away triumph of the season. 

 “It is satisfying to come away with any victory at Cardiff, regardless of the weather,” said Ward.

 “The lads worked really, really hard especially when Cardiff stepped it up to try to take advantage of the condition. They were very direct and the pitch made it difficult – it was very bobbly.

 “We ground it out and nicked it in the end with a bit of quality at the other end. We have that in abundance and we always know we are going to score goals.

 “Looking at the results around the country it was important to get those three points. Everybody else seems to be hot on our heels and we are very happy.

 “Derby did win so they remain up there, but when you look below us, Southampton, for example, have won. We play them on Easter Monday and we know that it is going to be very tight when we go there.

 “But as long as we concentrate on what we have to offer game in and game out then we will be comfortable.”

 Wallace became the latest Sunderland sub to notch a crucial goal.

 Ward added: “The squad has lots of quality. Whoever it is that steps up from the bench can produce the goods and long may that continue.


Wallace targets big finish

GOAL HERO Ross Wallace says the Black Cats must keep breathing down the necks of the two teams ahead of them as the promotion run-in reaches its exciting climax.

 The Scottish winger, who scored the only goal in the victory over Cardiff on Saturday, knows the top three are all in great form at the moment.

 But he says if Sunderland continue their winning streak, he’s confident that either Derby County or Birmingham above them will crack.

 Derby kept their three-point advantage over Sunderland with a 2-1 win at Barnsley on Saturday. The Black Cats were briefly second after winning at Cardiff, but Birmingham’s 3-0 home win over Coventry yesterday restored them as the Rams’ nearest challengers.

 Wallace said: “It was vital that we kept the pressure on Birmingham, but no-one seems to be letting up.

 “You come off the pitch and hear the other clubs’ results and you hope they will drop points, but you’re also satisfied that they’ll be looking at our results and wondering if we will slip up.

 “We have to concentrate on our results. We feel we can get the results we need and then we have to see if the other two can handle the pressure.”

 Former Sunderland boss McCarthy brings his Wolves side to the Stadium of Light on the back of Saturday’s astonishing 6-0 home loss to Southampton, who host the Black Cats on Easter Monday.

 But Wallace says Sunderland are looking forward to the games, knowing what needs to be done.

 He said: “The fans will be expecting us to win our home games. Wolves will probably work extra hard after such a bad result and with Mick coming back it will be another tough game.

 “But the results we have produced have made us very confident and if we play well we should beat them.”

 The winger put a mid-season dip in form behind him by hitting the crucial winner at Cardiff on Saturday. And now he wants a final flourish.

 He said: “We have a knack of getting goals just when we need them at the moment. I’m pleased with that goal but even happier with the three points.

 “I’ve practiced free-kicks a lot in training and always fancy myself to get a decent effort on target.

 “The goalkeeper gave me a lot of room at his near post and thankfully it squeezed in.

 “On a personal note, it’s great to get another goal. Hopefully now I can finish the season strongly.

 “I had a good start at Sunderland but missed out in the last few weeks.

 “I had a few niggling injuries and my form dipped.

 “But I feel very fresh now and I’m desperate to prove to the gaffer that I deserve a place.”