As you know, we're taking the time this summer to bring you some of our articles from Sunderland AFC's No.1 Fanzine, A Love Supreme. They were kind enough to give us our own column in there, and naturally we jumped at the chance.
You can subscribe to A Love Supreme online, and grab tonnes of free goodies just for doing so, so head on over to their shop here, and ensure you get a full years worth of quality SAFC related stuff for a bargain price. Do that HERE. And for day-to-day stuff, check out their website HERE.
We take it in turns among the writers here to write the actual column, and this time we bring you the column of Karl Jones, who reflects on Niall Quinn, what with Issue 210 of ALS coming out around the time he left the club...
From an Irish consortium to a Texan billionaire, it is safe to say Niall Quinn has been round the houses when it comes to finding those who could make his dreams for Sunderland a reality. The former striker's drive, passion and also the fantasist in him that had weathered the stampede of modern football and believed that one day, Sunderland could mix it with the elite, provided financial support could prop up his ambition.
Throughout his time at the club, Quinn targeted areas where Sunderland could make itself more attractive to potential investors. The SAFC Foundation has transformed into a model worth emulating in both Egypt and, more recently, Ghana. He has presided over the Academy of Light's most fruitful spell in terms of producing homegrown talent and armed with painful memory of the club's undoing, from a Premier League perspective, sold Jordan Henderson at peak market value.
Less than a year after ‘pubgate', Quinn, and owner Ellis Short, strategized that for Sunderland to continue to grow fairly - with the shadow of Financial Fair Play looming - it must be an attractive proposition overseas. Whilst the more cynical may point out that that is what the club should have been focussing on all along, there is little arguing Quinn's point that when full, the Stadium of Light is one of the most intimidating for opposition in the country. The former Chairman was deployed in an international development director role last October; his sole target to use his charm and persuasion to ease the burden on Short via commercial partnerships in financially emerging corners of the world.
Immediately after announcing his new role, Quinn began to improve relations but where Sunderland is excelling in terms of marketing has been in its transfer dealings. Asamoah Gyan, despite currently being away from the Stadium of Light, has raised the club's profile in Africa, enabling SAFC to further its roots. Quinn's visit to Korea in October may have been somewhat tainted by the national coach's criticism of Ji-Dong Won's fitness, but the striker is only the 9th Korean representative in a league that is watched all over the world.
In addition to the financial element, Gyan's debut season on Wearside further proved that Ghana homes talented footballers. Strengthening links with the nation may just allow Sunderland to cut out the teething period - usually a spell in Belgium or the French leagues - and attract Ghanaian youngsters directly. The club's recent affiliation with Asante Kotoko may go the way of the Digicel Academies hosted in the Caribbean (which heads into its sixth year without a player being offered a contract at Sunderland) but if our own Academy taught us anything it is that these things take time. Implementing these ideas around the world reflects well on the club.
At the head of interests in Africa, lay Tulow Oil - ranked 30th on the FTSE All-Share index as of March 2012 - indicating that Quinn has replicated the Tulow's initiative when it identified Ghana as a source of oil. Potentially, Quinn has struck gold, further emphasising his claim back in 2006 that he would leave when he had found the right people to continue his work. Financially, there is potential with Tulow spearheading the Invest In Africa partnership. On the pitch, Martin O'Neill's 10 wins in 17 games indicates that after two false starts Quinn has the right man in that department also.
Upon laying such foundations, the big Irishman stayed true to his word in February - parting with the club he rescued. Despite delivering more than many have dreamed when Drumaville took over, it is still with sadness that Quinn departs: a significant trophy during his era would have been fitting. Having given Sunderland the best possible chance to do such, tangible success on the field would be the best way to commemorate Niall Quinn for all that he has done for Sunderland A.F.C.