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Drumaville Consortium - Ten Years On

The third of July marks one decade since Niall Quinn took over as Sunderland Chairman from Bob Murray, and with that date approaching we take a look back at perhaps the most poignant change felt at our football club in the last century.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

I will never forget the date Tuesday the 22nd of August 2006. After a dismal opening eighty minutes against lowly Bury, Sunderland collapse and concede two late goals, losing in the League Cup against a side languishing at the foot of the bottom division in the Football League.

Having achieved four straight league defeats prior to the Bury defeat, the club was facing an uncertain future despite the Drumaville takeover in the weeks prior, and with over one thousand deeply concerned Sunderland supporters on his case in the away end at Gigg Lane, Niall Quinn promised after the game that he would step down as manager and find a 'world class' replacement (that man would turn out to be the recently-retired Roy Keane) within a week.

It was bold statement from a man under immense pressure to secure the immediate future of one of English football's biggest underachievers.

This summer marks a decade since Niall convinced a consortium of wealthy Irish businessmen - known as Drumaville - to invest in Sunderland, a football club that had just broken the record for the worst ever points return from a top flight side and was hemorrhaging money due to crippling loan debts and the price of losing our Premier League status. In that time, we won promotion with an immediate return back to the top flight, and despite various obstacles have been able to successfully retain our status as a Premier League club every season since.

Words cannot describe just how much of an impact Niall Quinn had upon Sunderland. Without the kindness and love that he showed our football club, we most certainly would have gone the way of other Northern giants like Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United - it's been a long, turbulent road for Sunderland and our supporters since 2006, yet today we sit here as an established top-flight side at a time when it's never been more profitable to be a part of the Premier League. For that, Niall Quinn deserves immense credit.

It still amazes me all these years later that Niall did what he did, purely because he knew he could help. He showed kindness to a club and a fanbase that had shown him love and support over the years, and he knew he could pay them back in ways that very few others may have been prepared to.

Why, though? I guess when you go from the brink of retirement to becoming a hero to thousands of people, there's a kind of unconditional love between a player and a fan base that is difficult to understand. Quinn was signed at a time when his best years were seen as behind him, with a long history of back issues hampering the length of his storied football career. Despite that, Peter Reid showed faith in Niall and managed to get more from him than perhaps any other manager ever did.

In turn, the fans loved him. And why wouldn't we? He notched countless goals, made Kevin Phillips look far better than any strike partner he ever had did, scored against Newcastle, and used proceeds from his testimonial to benefit local children's hospitals. The man is a living saint in my eyes.

Drumaville got involved because they believed in a man with a huge heart, who made them promises that he knew he couldn't guarantee. Charlie Chawke, Louis Fitzgerald, Jack Tierney, Paddy Kelly, John Hays and Patsy Byrne may not be names that Sunderland supporters are immediately familiar with but they all put their money forward when Niall sold them the dream. And then latterly, Ellis Short completed his purchase of the shares owned by Drumaville with Sunderland about to enter its third successive season in the top flight in the summer of 2009, becoming the sole owner of the football club.

As brilliant as Niall Quinn and Drumaville were for Sunderland, I sincerely hope I never have to live through that type of uncertainty again as a Sunderland supporter. Quinn's gamble paid off, but quite often these things don't. We were just lucky the person that decided to take charge of our club loved us - it's not always about the level of investment.

Ten years on, it's fair to say that we are where we are largely due to the groundwork that Niall Quinn laid back in 2006.

Yet, we're sat here all these years later waiting for Sunderland to become more than just a side that survives. Nobody expected Sunderland to struggle like we have in the past four years - generally you learn from your mistakes, and we don't seem to have done anything of the sort. This summer, however, feels different.

The man taking us forward in 2016 is the same man that Quinn originally wanted to lead his charge from the Championship in the beginning - Sam Allardyce. Will this year finally be the one that sees Sunderland take a step forward? I guess we'll see. Having been let down so badly by Sam's predecessors, I refuse to get ahead of myself until I'm presented with some proof, but I do admit that I feel hopeful.

Here's to the next ten years. I hope a decade from now I'm writing about how Sunderland went from strength to strength in the years following 2016, with or without current chairman Ellis Short.

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