Picture the scene - it’s July 2006, and a moribund Sunderland regime is replaced by an iconic figurehead who goes on to bring the good times to Sunderland AFC.
Our club became listless under the stewardship of Bob Murray, who after almost 20 years in the chair was getting tired and bereft of ideas on how to take the club forward.
Niall Quinn came in with his largely-Irish Drumaville consortium to bring some smiles to the faces of Sunderland supporters. The iconic figure of Roy Keane was installed as manager after Quinn’s hapless first six games in charge. His authoritarian style was just what the players needed, and the second-tier league title was won with consummate ease.
Back then, Quinn was exactly what the fans wanted from a chairman. He said all the right things and the media loved him. He paid for taxis for fans to get home from Cardiff after an over-zealous Easyjet pilot refused to fly fans home and said that the buoyant mood of the fans was a security risk. Quinn understood the sacrifices the fans made for the club and wanted to pay that back. Unfortunately, Quinn and his backers didn’t really have the financial nous needed to propel the club in the top division and when they sold their controlling stake to Ellis Short, the club started on its downward spiral.
Short’s reign started uneasily, with Keane leaving abruptly after a clash with the new owner over where he lived and how often he visited the training ground. Then Quinn himself departed. The subsequent appointments of a whole host of various CEOs, Directors of Football and commercial big-wigs soon followed, and their ability to operate with impunity has been well-documented both here and in many other places.
The arrival of the new regime with Stewart Donald as its figurehead is reminiscent of the Quinn rescue. Donald was seen chatting to fans after the Luton game in the streets outside the ground, thanking fans for coming and wishing them a safe journey home.
This is what the fans want, someone who can give a damn.
And, we haven’t had that since the days of Quinn. Now it appears that the Donald takeover was as a figurehead for Juan Sartori to takeover before the season started. Given he is the son-in-law of AS Monaco owner - and Russian billionaire - Dmitry Rybolovlev, we could be looking at some exciting times ahead.
Donald and his trusted lieutenant, Charlie Methven, have made an outstanding start in paving the way for a new regime to take charge.
Let’s hope it lasts a bit longer than Quinn’s time at the club did.