Roy Keane not returning to Sunderland as manager in 2021 was a ‘blessing’ for all parties involved.
That is the verdict of former Sunderland forward, manager and chairman Niall Quinn, who appointed Keane as Black Cats manager in 2006, before his successful stint in charge at the Stadium of Light.
Keane, who hasn’t managed a club since leaving Ipswich Town in 2011, was heavily linked with the Sunderland job in February 2022 following Lee Johnson’s departure.
But despite lengthy negotiations, Keane turned down the chance to return and has remained in his role as a successful TV pundit for both Sky Sports and ITV.
The Black Cats turned to Alex Neil instead and the Scot guided them to promotion to the Championship via the League One play-offs.
Neil left later that year to take charge of Stoke City and Tony Mowbray has since taken the reins and has guided a young Sunderland side to the Championship play-offs last season and one of the sides most spoken about in the race for promotion to the Premier League this term.
As such, Quinn believes Keane’s decision not to return has served all parties involved well.
“I don’t really know of the Sunderland hierarchy right now, but to be honest with you, I think that when you look at the success he’s had on Sky as a pundit, and the job Tony Mowbray has done, it might have been a blessing.
“They always say don’t go back; I always remember Howard Kendall going back to Everton. He had the most incredible record as a manager there, and everyone thought that when he returned, things would go back to as they were, and that the club would shoot straight back up the table and start winning things again.
“But that didn’t happen, and then his star was less shiny, if you like. That’s happened at a number of clubs; very rarely do you enjoy success on two separate occasions as a manager for the same club – so maybe it was best for all parties that Roy didn’t get the job in the end.”
Keane has continually hinted he feels he still has something to offer in management, and after holding coaching roles at Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Ireland, Quinn agrees with his former colleague.
“I’ve followed him as a number two, at Aston Villa, then with Martin [O’Neill], both internationally and at Nottingham Forest, but I think he’s more of a number one, personally,” Quinn added.
“If he ever goes back into the dugout, I think it will be as a number one, I know he’s spoken about that in the past. And if anyone wants to find out what he did for us, and how good he was as a manager, they only have to pick up the phone to me.
“He was different class, in a dressing room that needed more than a wakening. It needed a real good kick up the backside, and it needed players performing at a level they just hadn’t been anywhere near in previous years, and Roy did that. We didn’t break the bank, either. We bought lots of players, but we sold well. I’ll always have huge credit for Roy.”
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