Niall Quinn opens up on Roy Keane relationship after he ‘changed the culture’ in Sunderland

Niall Quinn may not be rushing to speak to Roy Keane on the phone nowadays, but the former Sunderland forward and chairman has hailed the impact his former Ireland team-mate had on Wearside.

Heading the Drumaville Consortium of wealthy Irish businessmen, in June 2006, Quinn successfully brokered a deal to buy a controlling stake in Sunderland. In July 2006, Quinn became the chairman and manager of Sunderland but his start to life in the dugout didn’t go as planned.

After losing all four of their opening Championship games of the 2006/07 season, Quinn stepped aside from his role as manager and appointed Keane, who had recently retired from his playing career, in his first managerial role.

The Manchester United legend transformed the club’s fortunes and guided the Black Cats to the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League in his first season in charge.

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Keane then helped steer Sunderland to Premier League survival in his second season in charge and his time managing at the Stadium of Light is still remembered fondly to this day.

And reflecting on their time working together, Quinn has hailed Keane for the ‘very special’ job he did during his time on Wearside.

“Is Roy Keane a phone call away from me these days? No, definitely not, although that’s not a good or a bad thing, I must say. I don’t get to see him; I’m not at games the way I used to be,” Quinn exclusively told Ladbrokes Fanzone.

“But looking back on my relationship with him, and particularly his time at Sunderland, I say this: he didn’t just change the culture in our dressing room, he changed the culture in the city of Sunderland. That’s how big a job he did, and that’s why I’ll always say the man is box office. Always was, and always will be.

“I just remember so fondly how he turned the dressing room inside out, and how he got a winning mentality back into a dressing room that had just come off a season where they had the worst points total ever in the history of the Premier League. Relegated with a shockingly low points total. There were 13 players when we got there; to turn that side into Championship winners inside nine months… it was just incredible.

“Roy brought something very special to the table, and I’m always going to be indebted to him for that, as are the group of people who owned the club at the time. It was an amazing performance from a young man who had never managed before, but at the same time it wasn’t a surprise, because we’re talking about a man with a ferocious appetite for success, and for wanting to do well.”

Keane is now a successful pundit on Sky Sports and ITV and is well revered for pulling no punches when it comes to his, at times, brutal analysis.

Some have suggested his robust approach to punditry is the reason he hasn’t managed in the game since leaving Ipswich Town in 2011, but Quinn insists suggestions that he rubbed his players up the wrong way at Sunderland could not have been further from the truth.

“I had some great times with Roy,” Quinn added. “I understand his desire to win was at a level which some of us couldn’t even understand; the ferociousness of it, and that desire to drive us. We’re all built a bit different, but I’ve never come across anything or anyone quite like Roy, when it came to getting a result. Every time. His attitude is just exemplary.

“There are lots of things we could speak about, when it comes to Roy, but I think he’s just such a good football pundit. He’s almost on the pitch, in the circumstance himself, and he’s giving us a view that not many of us have. Roy’s demands are just so strong, and it hasn’t left him, throughout his career, on or off the pitch.

“He’s not making it up, that stuff that he does and says on TV. He has a ferocious appetite for the game and, like I said, he’s box office… I wouldn’t like to be on the end of some of his lashings. He’s a huge character, larger than life, and he did brilliantly for me at Sunderland.

“I find it difficult to criticise Roy. You know, we have had things we’ve fallen out about, but I just think he’s a massive part of the game. The stories of players celebrating when he left Sunderland, they just aren’t true. It was a pity he left, actually.

“He was under no pressure to leave. He had done his bit, he worked really hard and, you have to remember, he came straight from being a player, into the managerial job at Sunderland. He had a phenomenal time with us, but he just felt it was the right time to go. He has spoken himself about the fall out with the owner at the time, and I think in the end he had just had enough.

“I respected that decision, and I really thought, actually, that our loss was going to be someone else’s advantage. Once he had had time to restock, and get himself back on the train, I’ve got to admit I’m surprised it didn’t go better for him at Ipswich. I really thought it would.”

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