Walshie: “Keeping a clean sheet against Bradford City”
Alongside the orange ball, a referee falling over and a fan heading a wayward shot back into play - the sight of an outfield player having to go in goal is something that makes me kiss my finger, point to the heavens, a single tear rolling down my cheek and whispering “yes”.
Now when you’re getting walloped it is funny enough but when you’re holding a slender lead in a promotion clash against your nearest rival it is time to sound the banter klaxon. That’s exactly what happened in the pouring rain in Bradford on a March evening in 1999.
Having put the Lads one up against a tasty Bradford City side featuring the mercurial talents of Robbie Blake and Lee Mills, Big Quinny faced another conundrum a mere minute after nodding in the opening goal. Tommy Sorensen had collided with the aforementioned Mills and was forced off with injury - and being the managerial maverick he was, Peter Reid had no replacement ‘keeper on the bench.
“I’ll do it”, the beautiful Irishman bellowed, taking the gloves from the stricken Dane and donning the lightning blue jersey (why we had a replacement shirt but no replacement ‘keeper will always remain a mystery). With 20 minutes to go, Quinny was the pillar of calm and laughed off any suggestion that these Bradford pretenders were getting past.
He kept a clean sheet and Sunderland continued their glorious ascent to the Premier League. It may seem like a fairly trivial moment in the git mint things Quinny has done for us over the year but it was simply magical to be able to mug off a promotion rival by playing our centre forward in goal for the remainder of a match.
Love you Quinny, mate.
Gav: “His goal v Port Vale!”
My favourite Sunderland goal bar none is Niall Quinn’s sublime chipped effort against Port Vale at the Stadium of Light in 1997.
Just watch it. The technique, the touch, the crowd going absolutely berserk, the audacity to run away and celebrate before it has even hit the back of the net - it had everything!
Dan Parker: “Meeting the great man!”
Niall Quinn was one of my favourite players to watch growing up.
The winning header against the Mags, the disco pants, the link-up with SuperKev - he was truly inspirational. Despite all of that, the memory I’ve chosen is a personal one to me.
He supported (as he often does) a charity event that went across the country - the 2011 Bob Wilson Soccer Cycle which raised money for the Willow Foundation.
The tour’s final leg was back in the North East and, as a volunteer, I was excited enough just to get on the pitch at the Stadium of Light. As soon as Quinn found out I was a Lads fan, he did everything in his power to go the extra mile and give me an experience I’d never forget.
Showing me around the dressing room, reeling off anecdotes from his playing days, and putting a ticket behind the desk for the midweek game against Reading for me. They say never meet your heroes, but whoever “they” are, they clearly never met Niall Quinn.
Connor Bromley: “Quinny’s testimonial!”
May 14th 2002 - one day after my eighth birthday and what a better way to celebrate such an occasion than taking in a game of football for Quinny’s testimonial! Sunderland welcomed Ireland to the Stadium of Light as future manager Mick McCarthy brought his team for the game prior to the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
The match itself was a standard affair for Sunderland as we got humped 3-0. As an eight year old I was stunned and probably confused that the Irish Sunderland players played a half for either side. Quinny started the game for Sunderland before coming off after 20 minutes - he then started the second half for Ireland before coming off 13 minutes later.
Oh - and he donated all the money from the game to charity, just to prove how good a fella he is. Even the Prime Minister was stunned by his generosity as Mr. Blair said: “Niall Quinn is a credit to sport. His selfless decision to donate so generously is inspirational. I am sure his testimonial was a fitting tribute to both his footballing talent and his sportsmanship.”
The fans at the Stadium of Light gave him a hero’s reception throughout the occasion and I suppose this game was the final happy memory at the ground until Quinny came back in 2006 to save the club from footballing oblivion.