Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn a trailblazer

PUBLISHED: 18:31 01 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:29 20 February 2013

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn a trailblazer

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn a trailblazer

Sunderland Football Club's chairman stands out as a genuine trailblazer in our national game. Roger Tames asks why so few ex-players have followed in Niall Quinn's footsteps

The chairman of German football super-power Bayern Munich played in two World Cup finals and scored 162 Bundesliga goals for the club. The president of UEFA was the midfield inspiration behind Frances great European Championship winning team of 1980 and scored more than 200 league goals.

Yet you dont find many former Premier League footballers with the ambition to follow Karl Heinz Rumenigge and Michel Platini and make their mark in the corridors of football power instead of the perpetual uncertainty of the managers office.

The top footballers who dont attempt to become the next Sir Alex Ferguson either settle for the understandable attractions of the TV studio or just slip away from the game to shuttle between golf course and racecourse as they enjoy the multi-million pound fruits of their professional labours.

All of which makes Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn a genuinely innovative force in our national game. Wigan Athletic do have former Blackburn Rovers Dave Whelan as their owner, but the 1960 FA Cup
finalist was a business success before buying the Latics.

Giving away his testimonial stash to charity had already established the Irish international striker as a man with differing motivations to the stereotypical, baby Bentley driving footballer.

Now he has taken the unique path from dressing room to boardroom,
Quinn has given Sunderland a bond with their supporters based on
consistency and understanding which team managers rarely get the time or the chance to establish.

Recently, the Black Cats erstwhile centre-forward took the opportunity to forge closer links between his club and the local business community by providing the keynote speech as the Stadium of Lights impressive facilities staged the Durham & Wearside Business Awards.

Quinn had the areas outstanding commercial exponents absolutely enthralled with his combination of self-deprecating, dressing room banter sharply balanced by common sense practicalities.

Remember, this is my first gig, the football club chairman told business leaders. Had I known how tough it was going to be five years ago I might never have come into the business world.

I envy people whove come from the school of hard knocks to work their way though. I think Im learning all the time.

I have a different approach. I had to be different. I headed the ball too many times for 20 years so it wasnt so simple to go back to night school to become a businessman.

Like many footballers who need to leave school at 16 to concentrate full time on their football education, Quinn confesses to having no formal qualifications. Yet he recognises certain footballing qualities are a universal skill.

What stands out from everybody working hard in their businesses to overcome the economic climate and coming out on top is that theyre doing it with passion, he told his awards audience.

Thats the big word for me. When I came to Sunderland I had no idea of how much passion existed around here.

Footballs self-governance is under government scrutiny at the moment. Instead of turning to steel billionaires from Uzbekistan - or even discount sports retailers from the Home Counties - maybe some of the games ills could be solved by looking inwards.

In the highly articulate former Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate and the instinctive leadership of Newcastle icon Alan Shearer, this region alone has produced former players who surely could make a massive
contribution to the way football is run as well as played.
Niall Quinn has shown the way.

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