Monday 20 February 2012
Sunderland have paid tribute to former chairman Niall Quinn, who is stepping down from his role at the club after six years.
Quinn, who played for the Black Cats between 1996 and 2002, became chairman and manager in the summer of 2006 when he headed the Drumaville Consortium that bought a controlling stake in the club.
"He has been the heartbeat of the football club - to me, Niall will always be 'Mr Sunderland'"
- Martin O'Neill
He handed over the managerial reins in August that year but continued as chairman until October 2011, when Ellis Short - Sunderland's new owner - replaced him in the role.
Quinn has spent the last few months concentrating on improving the club's international profile, but he will now return to Ireland to look after family and business interests outside football.
Short told Sunderland's official website: "Niall Quinn is and always will be a Sunderland legend. His vision brought me into the club and that vision still inspires what we do.
"He has been a wonderful servant to Sunderland and his determination to see the club grow has been inspirational.
"He will always have a unique and special place in our history and indeed in the hearts of every Sunderland fan."
Manager Martin O'Neill paid his own tribute to Quinn and said the 45-year-old played a big part in him taking over as boss in December.
"Niall has been a truly iconic figure at Sunderland, both as a player and in his time leading the club from the top," said O'Neill. "His vision and drive, alongside that of Ellis, played a significant part in me coming here.
"Like everyone, I couldn't be more disappointed that he has decided to step down but of course I respect and understand his decision.
"He has been the heartbeat of the football club for so long and his legacy is immeasurable. To me he is 'Mr. Sunderland' - and always will be."
Quinn says he has an enormous amount of pride when he sees how well Sunderland - ninth in the Barclays Premier League - are doing compared to when he arrived at the club in 2006, when they were in the Championship.
"I've had the most amazing six years and it gives me a huge sense of pride to see where Sunderland is today," said Quinn.
"Sunderland is in an incredibly fortunate position to have a hugely talented team of people leading the football club right now.
"The faith these great Sunderland fans showed in me was humbling"
- Niall Quinn
"From a football perspective, securing the services of Martin O'Neill has been an absolute highlight.
"In Martin we have a man that understands the region, the club and the unique place it holds in the lives of its supporters and I am confident that he will harness the immense passion that exists here and take us to new heights."
Quinn also reserved special thanks for the Sunderland supporters and the Drumaville Consortium of Irish businessmen that allowed him to become chairman six years ago.
"As for the great Sunderland fans, I would like to thank them for the trust they placed in me," he added. "Back in 2006 I had no business experience and little formal education and yet the fans backed me and believed in what I was trying to do.
"They came back to the club in their tens of thousands and the faith they showed in me was humbling.
"I must make special mention of the Drumaville consortium, without whom the story would not have unfolded. They will always be fondly remembered on Wearside and I will always be grateful for their input."