There are two things Sunderland's American owner Ellis Short has in common with Niall Quinn. Both are Irish passport-holders and the billionaire businessman also succeeded the affable football legend as the club's chairman. But there the similarities seem to end with each having totally different records in trying to run the day-to-day affairs at the Black Cats.
In his own right, Quinn is an immortal as a player as well as a saviour of the club. His five year era as chairman produced a remarkable upturn in the fortunes of Sunderland after he rode back to the city with a posse of investors. The success he brought is cast on the heart of every fan, promotion from the Championship and a modicum of stability in the Premier League, albeit with a bit of stuttering in the progress envisaged.
Following his departure there has been a marked decline in the team's performance, winning just 11 out of 58 league games since. After he left on 20th Feb 2012, the club won only two more games from the 13 matches remaining in the season. This is in stark contrast to 10 victories in the preceding 15 league and cup games, which coincided with the honeymoon period under the management of manager Martin O'Neill.
The overall failure of MON's tenure has already well and truly been put under the spotlight. On whether it was due to being without his trusted assistant John Robertson and lost the dressing room or if he was passed his sell-by date with his traditionalist style and methods. Most attention has been given to his relationship with his squad and seemingly sudden inability to mould and motivate the players. Yet there has been scant focus on the predicament he found himself in with the void left by Quinn's departure from the board.
This is certainly not an apologist piece for O'Neill or even any claim that all was hunky-dory with the gentle giant from Dublin, who may not have been a great businessman but was the public face of Sunderland. With the entrance of Short, it appears to be no coincidence that Quinn was slowly edged out. Within weeks of becoming the majority shareholder, he effectively forced out Roy Keane at a time when the Irish chairman was planning to extend his contract. The former Manchester United captain resigned at the beginning of December in 2008, complaining that the atmosphere had changed with the arrival of the American.
Short is the odd-one-out among other US owners of Premier League teams, having no other sporting interests. It is difficult to work out his actual interest at Sunderland other than making money and one cannot complain at that. He spent a couple of years with Quinn in the chair before demoting him to the reduced role in international development. Rumours at the time were that he was gunning for Steve Bruce but that Saint Niall was reluctant to pull the trigger so he fired it himself again within weeks of becoming chairman.
The saviour of Sunderland bided his time for a few months and departed when MON seemed to have successfully settled in, but his departure left the Northern Irishman without a football colleague on the board. As a person who shuns publicity and refuses to give any interviews, Short also broke the club's association with the fans. Like Mike Ashley at Newcastle, his only communications comes by way of a few comments expressed occasionally in match-day programme notes.
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