Niall Quinn Leaves Sunderland On A High

Niall Quinn - Legend.

Sunderland started the week with a bombshell this morning, as it was announced that former chairman Niall Quinn would be leaving the club with immediate effect. The Irishman, who took over as chairman in the summer of 2006, had recently held a role focused upon the club's international profile. Now, however, he has announced his decision to leave football altogether - he is expected to return home to Ireland to spend more time with his family and pursue other business interests.

The news, initially something of a shock, seems logical when assessing the situation. Quinn's decision to step down as chairman a few months ago was one that hinted at his desire for a lesser role - many observers suggested the only reason he hadn't left the club fully was because results on the pitch were dire enough already.

Now, with the club almost certainly saved from another relegation battle, an FA Cup quarter-final looming, and a team in the best form since the Irishman arrived at the club (at least in the Premier League), the former chairman has evidently decided his work here is done.

It is difficult to argue with him. Quinn himself was never shy of admitting he was a football man first, and that the business world was somewhere in which he was still something of an amateur. His astute recruitment of the wealthy Ellis Short is testament to his humility, and his acceptance that the job of pushing Sunderland onto that 'next level' was clearly too big for just one man.

Speaking to the clubs official website about the decision, Quinn said of SAFC's current situation "Everything is in place for Sunderland to really make a statement, which was always my aim. From a football perspective, securing the services of Martin O'Neill has been an absolute highlight. In Martin we have a man that understands the region, the club and the unique place it holds in the lives of its supporters and I am confident that he will harness the immense passion that exists here and take us to new heights."

CEO Margret Byrne also paid tribute to the big man, adding "His passion and enthusiasm are quite simply infectious and his desire to see Sunderland compete with the country's top clubs is something that everyone here is committed to taking forward."

Ellis Short will now be trusted almost entirely with taking the club further. The American, a man of few words, did take time to praise Quinn upon his departure "His hard work laid down the foundations that we are now building on and the vision and drive he showed both in those early days and indeed in recent times as he focused on our international development, particularly in Africa, should never be underestimated."

Whilst Martin O'Neill, not only the manager but a fan, spoke just like one of you and me with his admiration for Quinny "He has been the heartbeat of the football club for so long and his legacy is immeasurable. To me he is 'Mr. Sunderland' - and always will be."

Quinn will be unanimously missed, not just at Sunderland, but also by the wider world of English football. Henry Winter of The Telegraph was quick to praise the outgoing Irishman, stating on Twitter: "A man of vision & dignity, Quinn's been superb for the club. Sunderland and English football will miss him"

Rather than dismay among fans, there seems to more of an accepting air of sadness lingering over Wearside this morning. From the outset, Quinn was adamant that his aim was to stop Sunderland being a yo-yo club, before establishing themselves as a solid Premier League side. When that was done, he was intent on leaving the club on a high.

Mission accomplished, thank you Niall.

People have talked of a stand to be named after Quinny, or perhaps even a statue outside the ground. Given Quinn's commitment to the club on and off the pitch, one of these, or both, would be a very fitting tribute.

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