The Quinner

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Quinn wants tracksuit back now boardroom blues over
Saturday, September 13, 2014

Niall Quinn

By John Fallon
Shortly after the 2011 season kicked off Niall Quinn came to terms with Premier League boardrooms no longer being a place he wished to inhabit.
As Sunderland chairman, the former fans’ favourite had for over five years overseen the resurrection of a club lurching towards the third tier of football to become Premier League mainstays.
Still, Quinn had gradually been ground down, exposed to the darker side of the biggest league in the world, and the impact it had on him both professionally and privately.
For someone whose charming nature had his former team-mate and manager Roy Keane once comparing him to Mother Teresa, the Niall Quinn sporting the swish suit and red and white tie in the directors’ box was reduced to a figure unrecognisable even to himself.
Behind those pictures from Premier League matches of Quinn embracing his wife Gillian after the Black Cats had equalised to nick a point lay a character tortured by the risks of the club slipping back into the Championship.
“My demeanour had changed, I’d got wound up near the end,” said Quinn, who quit the role as Ireland’s sole chairman of a top-flight club in October 2011.
“I’d gone from this guy who was happy to bring the club up along to someone who was shouting and roaring at everybody in the office. It was all-encompassing and took over my life for five or six years.
“I kind of fell out of love with the game. Players talking the talk but not walking the walk as well as referees costing us big points.
“Somebody asked me the other day do I miss Sunderland. I’m just over two years gone and I don’t miss one day of it. I’m glad I did it but it was hard work.
“I’m not in the mood for going back to the Premier League and taking on the agents again. They were bane of my life for so long.”
Nowadays, the 47-year-old’s link to English football is as that of a pundit, analysing matches for Sky Sports.
“I get a seat in the house to watch matches with the best players,” he explained.
“Then, I get to talk about it with the result not mattering to me, whether it’s Manchester United, City or Arsenal. I enjoy the games brilliantly but I’m not there worried about the implications of the result. That’s the difference. I think it’s possibly easier being a coach than chairman, moving around and getting sacked, trying to find your way.”
Punditry fills the void for Quinn but not enough to achieve fulfilment. Back living in Ireland since departing Sunderland, although the holder of 92 caps from a glittering international career has diversified into broadband and property businesses, he’s ready and willing to lend a hand to overhauling this country’s obsolete system of elite player development.
Quinn’s brief involvement in coaching thus far amounts to an infamous caretaker spell at Sunderland before Keane took the reins in August 2006. This time, with age on his side, he’s prepared to begin all over again.
“It’s time I put a tracksuit on,” he admits. “I’ve got my full B licence and though I’d need my A licence to go up the ranks, I think with what I have, I could work with younger players.
“Could I put something together? It might be at college level with a course over a year for players because I love working with young people who want to improve.
“It’s not simple and I know the FAI aren’t flush with funds because of the economic meltdown.”
He added: “When I look back, the thing I feel worst about is the amount of Irish kids who came over to me when I was chairman of Sunderland who didn’t make it and I had stopped them doing their Leaving Cert. My club had stopped them fulfilling it and they come back and are trying to play catch-up.
“What I should have done is we will come for the two years or whatever we feel the length of the contract was and if you don’t make it there’s your university paid and you can build up for that in the two years to whatever subject you want.
“It sounds simple when I say it here now but it just doesn’t exist. I would love to get involved in something like that, that stops our players thinking they have to go at 16 and give up everything.”
No time like the present.
‘I admire and respect Keane’
Niall Quinn insists he’s gotten over the “skirmishes” with his nemesis Roy Keane to regard the Corkman with fondness.
Despite the pair agreeing to put their differences aside when they worked together at Sunderland as chairman and manager from 2006, the inherent fractures in their relationship soon returned once Keane departed the club two-and-a-half years later.
Quinn testified at a tribunal last year held when Keane sued the club for unfair dismissal, a case that resulted him receiving €250,000 in unpaid salary.
Interaction these days between the duo remains non-existent and so Quinn prefers to remember their better dealings, even if Keane doesn’t.
He said: “I haven’t seen Roy for a long time. When, as chairman, someone achieves for you what Roy did by getting us into the Premier League and taking the whole thing into a much bigger space, you have a fondness for them. No matter what happens, and there was the falling out with the owner [Ellis Short], I call those skirmishes. I’m not a friend of Roy’s but he’s powerful and his presence will be good for Martin O’Neill and Ireland.”
Quinn also confirmed Keane received preferential treatment during his time with Ireland.

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