I absolutely love Niall Quinn - he is my all-time Sunderland hero, and what he did for this football club both as a player and then subsequently chairman cannot be ignored.
But, he was a bloody hopeless manager.
In fairness to him, he didn’t want to do the job, but having failed to convince Roy Keane, Martin O’Neill and Sam Allardyce to take over the reigns of his recently-relegated football club, the big man stepped in at our hour of need to try and get pre-season underway.
Assisted by the legendary Bobby Saxton, Quinn slapped together a squad over the summer that was depleted due to the departure of talisman Julio Arca, and signed a bunch of players who really, in the main, shouldn’t have been anywhere near Wearside.
We won every game in pre-season without conceding a single goal, but when the real action came around, we struggled. Five straight losses - including against the side bottom of League Two, Bury, in the League Cup - had Sunderland off to one of their worst ever starts to a season.
By the time we played West Brom on August 28th 2006, though, things were changing.
Having previously failed to convince his former Ireland teammate to join him in the north-east, Quinn re-opened talks with Roy Keane - the former Manchester United midfielder who had just retired from playing after a spell with Celtic.
Keane met the players the day before at the training ground, and though he hadn’t signed on the dotted line, the fact that he’d introduced himself to them was a clear sign that he was about to take over.
Talks went well, and no secret was made about the fact that Keane was in the stands to watch Quinny take charge of his final game as manager, against West Bromwich Albion - interestingly, also managed by another legendary former Manchester United midfielder in Bryan Robson.
The improved mood combined with the sheer pressure of fucking up in the presence of Roy Keane clearly had a huge impact on the way Sunderland played that day, with the side running out two-nil winners in front of 24,242 fans at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland XI: Alnwick, Delap, R Elliott, Leadbitter, Cunningham, N Collins, Lawrence, Whitehead (c), Brown, S Elliott, Hysen. Subs: Ward, Nosworthy, D Collins, Stead, Murphy.
On the bench that day for West Brom were former Sunderland loan midfielder Darren Carter, and ‘Super’ Kevin Phillips - the forward that Quinn had failed to bring back to Wearside after Aston Villa made him available, instead preferring to remain in the midlands to sign for Robson’s side, much to the disdain of some Sunderland fans in the ground that day who chose to boo him as he entered the pitch.
Sunderland were the better side from the start of the match, and came close to scoring twice in the opening stages - first, a miss from six yards out from debutant forward Tobias Hysen, who had just joined the club from Djurgårdens IF, and then a header that went just wide from Liam Lawrence.
Our dominance eventually paid off, though, as Dean Whitehead’s corner was adjudged by the officials to have gone straight in and crossed the line, despite the protests of the West Bromwich Albion players.
Despite SuperKev coming on at half time, it made no real difference, and we added a second after the break - a header from another corner, this time from defender Neill Collins, doubling Sunderland’s lead and ensuring that all three points remained on Wearside for the first time in the season.
Keane applauded from the Directors Box, understandably pleased with the performance of his new players. Little did they know, he’d be utterly ruthless on deadline day, and just days later would sign no fewer than six players on the final day of the transfer window.
It was the start of a new era on Wearside after a thoroughly depressing year or so that had seen us embarrass ourselves in the Premier League, losing twice to Newcastle and getting relegated with the then lowest ever points tally.
We knew that huge change was needed, and Keane was sure to bring the intensity and winning mentality that he displayed as a player into his new career as a manager.
We all know how that season ended - but one can only wonder how badly things might have gone if it wasn’t Keane that took the job.
Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn:
It’s a great feeling. People thought we were going to get spanked again today so for them to perform like that, I’m very proud.
The manager knows he’s got characters in there. It was astonishing when you consider what they’ve been through.
They impressed their new manager I would say. They won it the right way.