by Susan Jardine

Former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has resigned as Director of International Development of the club.

Quinn’s resignation comes as Sunderland fans were celebrating after securing a place in the quarter finals of the FA Cup following a 2-0 victory over Arsenal. The decision is certain to sadden fans who had taken Quinn to the hearts after the Irishman arrived at the club as a player in 1996.

Having guided the club to promotion as part of a strike force with Kevin Phillips the Irishman hung up his boots in 2002. As fans endured two infamous relegation seasons, the worst one being in 2006 when Sunderland amassed the total of 15 points so too came the news that Quinn was returning to take control of the club as leader of the Drumaville Consortium.

As Quinn was appointed Chairman he also acted as manager albeit during a period where the Black Cats lost five out of six games before handing over managerial responsibilities to Roy Keane. From there Sunderland fans saw their club rise steadily up to the Championship table to that momentous day at Luton in 2007 when a 5-0 mauling of the Hatters gave Sunderland the Championship trophy and a golden ticket back to the Premiership.

Sunderland escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth in 2008. The following season they were once again heading towards the relegation zone. Following a 4-1 home defeat by Bolton Roy Keane resigned and coach Ricky Sbragia was appointed manager in December of that year. The brief was simple. Keep Sunderland in the Premiership. As the season unfolded the Black Cats escaped the drop.

During his tenure at the club Sunderland fans saw Keane, Sbragia and Steve Bruce arrive and depart the club. Quinn though remained a constant in two roles, firstly as Chairman. He remained in the hotseat as chairman of the club after May 2009 as American businessman Ellis Short completed his takeover of the club. And indeed only stepped down from the role in October of 2011 to concentrate on International development.

Maybe because he had played for Sunderland he knew just how important it was to the fans.

So why was Niall Quinn so well liked among the fans. The answer seems to be because as a player he always gave complete commitment to the club on the pitch. Forging the partnership that he did with Kevin Phillips saw the fans basking in a promotion to the Premiership, and two top ten finishes under Peter Reid. It was a golden period for the Black Cats as wingers Allan Johnston and Nicky Summerbee supplied the ammunition from which their success was founded on. Quinn’s Sunderland record as a player is an imposing one. 77 goals in 222 appearances, and plenty of assists to boot.

Maybe because he had played for Sunderland he knew just how important it was to the fans. As has been said on countless occasions in whatever sphere businessmen work on percentages but Quinn while now a businessman seemed to have an instinctive intuition to the fans feelings towards Sunderland. The fans viewed him as a “one of us” for that reason and realised he had the best interests of the club at heart. You would have to go a long way in Tyne and Wear to find a Sunderland fan who expressed any discord.

Today Sunderland is now a Premiership club with stability. That surely must be a testament to the hard work Quinn has put in behind the scenes. The Stadium of Light is a fine venue to watch football at and the good times in football seem to be heading back to the North East.

I am sure all Sunderland fans would join with me in wishing Niall Quinn the very best of luck. But how do I sum up his years with the Black Cats as a player and as Chairman. Maybe the best answer is a two word Take That song title, and the sentiments in the lyrics. That song of course is Never Forget.

Believe me – the fans will never forget Niall.

You can follow Susan on Twitter at!/northeastdiva