The 2005-06 season was an outright disaster for Sunderland on the pitch. The club were relegated with a paltry fifteen points, breaking their own record for the lowest amount of points garnered by a team in a season.
Off the pitch, the club were also in dire need of reinforcements and rejuvenation. Bob Murray appeared fed up and disillusioned with owning the club he dearly loved, and decided it was time to sell up.
The problem was: to whom could Murray offload the club? Faced with approximately £40m worth of debt and the inevitable firesale of their playing squad, Sunderland were hardly an attractive proposition to even the most ambitious of businessmen.
The man was legendary Irish and Sunderland striker Niall Quinn, who fronted a consortium named Drumaville. The consortium consisted of eight Irish businessmen along with John Hays - who was the only Sunderland-based businessman involved in the deal.
Murray himself had announced his resignation from the chairmanship on 14 June. However, in a move that reflected well on him, he remained on the board of directors to oversee and ensure that Drumaville’s path to control was a smooth one.
Eventually, Quinn assumed the chairmanship with his first task being the recruitment of a new manager for a football team that seemed hapless and hopeless.
The board sought a manager who could provide the ‘wow’ factor which would show fans that they meant business. Names such as Martin O’ Neill and Sam Allardyce were mentioned - but both seemed apprehensive about joining a club in the second tier of English football.
Speaking about the search, Quinny said:
There were a couple of times when I thought we were there. We were as close as you can be, we’d already agreed certain things and we thought we had the package that would get one of them to make the jump but it just didn’t come off.
We looked overseas as well. We looked at the very best and talked to people at the World Cup. We were told there would have been a chance if we’d been in the Premiership and they are still in our sights if things go well.
By the end of July, the club were still struggling to appoint someone. With the new season only around the corner, Quinn had appointed himself as manager along with his old assistant boss Bobby Saxton to help him during this time.
The season got underway and despite the good feeling around the club following the takeover, the poor form from the previous season continued as we lost the first four in the Coca-Cola Championship followed by defeat at Bury in the League Cup - who at the time sat bottom of the Football League.
The result against Bury appeared to accelerate the process in finding a new manager. A report dated as 24th August in The Guardian in the aftermath of the defeat suggested that Sunderland’s negotiations with a manager had developed.
Roy Keane is expected to be named as Sunderland’s manager within the next 48 hours, an appointment that will stun football fans on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Niall Quinn, Sunderland’s chairman-manager, has been in regular contact with Keane for some time and they have a verbal agreement that the former Manchester United player will move to Wearside. But no contract has been signed and there is concern the deal could collapse. Last night’s premature publicity is unlikely to have helped Quinn complete his task.
Rumours of Keane’s impending arrival sent shockwaves around the football world. The legendary footballer had only recently retired from Glasgow Celtic months previous. Keane’s appointment was not unveiled until after our 2-0 victory over league leaders West Brom on the 28th August, where it appeared his expected arrival served as wake-up call for the entire squad.
But we knew Roy was favourable to coming at the point though, so we remained calm. He didn’t come til a week later and we had a game against the league leaders West Brom; word had started to seep out that Roy was coming and the players all played 35% better in that game! We beat the league leaders easy and the players were all up for it, so that was a little twist before he created before he even came into the door.
On this day seventeen years ago, Keane was unveiled to the media who were all eager to see what one of English football’s most famous names would say in his first venture into management. The press conference was interesting with people wondering how Keane would change his ways from playing to management along with his previous issues with his now chairman.
“I’ve fallen out with thousands of people,” he says. “But I’m humble enough to apologise if I think I’ve done something wrong.”
“All I ever expected from my team-mates was 100%. I spoke to the players this morning and said if they give 100% to Sunderland there won’t be a problem. If they take their eye off the ball and don’t give 100%, then there will be a problem.”
Keane also spoke about new assistant Tony Loughlan who joined from Leicester City. He cited the former Leicester coach’s hunger and drive as one of the main factors for bringing him on board.
“I’ve known him since my first day at Nottingham Forest. He’s around the same age as me - he’s young, he’s enthusiastic and he’ll make a very good coach. He’s somebody I trust, I have great faith in him, he’s very open-minded, he’ll work well with the other coaches and he’ll make a very good coach.”
As we all know now, the arrival of Keane boosted the entire city. Keane’s leadership, winning mentality and no nonsense approach took the club to another level. Despite sitting bottom upon his arrival, Keane got the club promoted in his first season in charge.
The club went on to survive in the Premier League under his stewardship - with the team giving fans plenty of memorable moments during the Irishman’s time in charge.