The period between 2003 till 2005 saw an unreal turnover of instantly forgettable players going through the doors at Sunderland. Simon Johnson, Kevin Cooper, Neill Collins - Mick McCarthy loved a random signing.
Perhaps the most instantly forgettable of them all is Alan Quinn, a player that I would hazard most of you can barely remember lining up in a red and white shirt.
Moving to Wearside at the age of twenty four, Quinn was signed in a weird sort of swap-loan, with Michael Reddy joining former Black Cats' goalkeeper Chris Turner at Sheffield Wednesday. With both player's contracts due to expire at the end of the 2003/2004 campaign, a three month loan was arranged with a view to keeping the Irish international until the end of the season. Held in high regard at Hillsborough, he began his career in Sheffield as a teenager, moving from Manortown United in his native Republic of Ireland. A successful youth career culminated in him appearing, and scoring, in the final of the U18 European Championship.
Although that performance gave him the opportunity to make his debut for the Owls, his career didn’t kick into gear until 1999. With Danny Wilson’s South Yorkshire outfit struggling against the drop, Quinn was given an extended run in the centre of midfield, where he impressed. Unfortunately for the midfielder, he and his team eventually dropped into the second tier, alongside Watford and the club formerly known as Wimbledon - a season where thirty Kevin Phillips goals helped the Lads to a 7th placed finish. Two of those Superkev strikes did actually come at Hillsborough as we pushed Sheffield Wednesday further to the Premier League trap door.
As per usual in those days, a relegation gave more opportunity to academy products and he continued his impressive form under new Manager Paul Jewell. Sadly, those around him did not improve though despite the emergence of Quinn’s talent and they struggled to stave off the threat of a second relegation, hovering about the drop zone almost all season, before finishing in a nonentity position of 17th. Although he won the Player of the Year award in that season, Wednesday would once again part with another Manager before the end of that term and begin the summer a fresh. Despite the spiral continuing, he kept his place for every new face that walked into the revolving door until the appointment of Chris Turner.
Making his Stadium of Light debut on the left hand side of midfield, Quinn would play 62 minutes of a 1-0 win over Midlands outfit Walsall. Marcus Stewart hit the winner just before half time, pushing Mick McCarthy’s team into fourth in the league. It would be the sole win of his three month loan spell however, as he dipped in and out of the team during a disappointing set of results. With John Oster suspended, he would feature in the 0-0 home draw to Coventry City and the dismal 3-0 away to Crewe Alexandra. Despite being taken off early in the second half of both games, his Manager gave hope of a permanent move.
I thought Quinny played well last Saturday. He was different class at times. He's a very good option to have because he's comfortable right across the midfield. You like players who are versatile and able to adapt to different positions, and he gives us that.
The rumours of a permanent swap of Quinn and Reddy were mooted by his former Ireland manager, and Quinn spoke positively of a permanent switch. Things didn’t go quite to plan though. He would feature further in draws to Coventry and Rotherham whilst he would be part of the team that lost to a single goal against Norwich at Carrow Road. It was telling that he was also kept on the bench as Sunderland chased a late equaliser during defeat at Upton Park. In a typical tale of red and white woe, an early 0-2 lead disintegrated in the second half. A Jermain Defoe brace helping West Ham to a battling second half comeback, running out 3-2 winners. Quinn’s loan deal ended after that game and he was never seen at the club again.
Eventually, a move to local rivals Sheffield United resurrected his flagging career.
It was at Bramall Lane where he would spent the prime years of career, hitting eleven goals in almost one hundred games - one coming in the Steel City derby, meaning he was the only player to have scored for both clubs in that game - before later signing for Ipswich in 2008, and it was here where he would also play for Roy Keane from 2009 until his release in 2011. His career at Ipswich was initially very successful, although a year out of the game due to a thigh injury and mystery infection would ultimately cost him his professional career. He has since turned out for local Irish team, Handsworth Parramore.