Changes at the top testament to Quinn's success

Sitting watching Shane Long waltz through the Sunderland defence unopposed to fire West Bromwich Albion into an early two goal lead last week, I can't have been alone in believing that a change in the leadership of the club was surely imminent.

But Niall Quinn relinquishing his position as chairman of the club to take up a new role as the head of international development was not the change I expected.

Initially there was sadness.

Amid all the heavy rotation of players, the various managers, the change in ownership, and the seemingly ever-changing fortunes of the last five years, Niall Quinn was the constant.

From the moment the Irishman swept back into town with a rabble of wealthy friends and the infectious enthusiasm and that would become the hallmark of his reign, knowing that we were represented by such a special individual was always a source of genuine pride for supporters.

In many ways, Quinn passing on his duties to Ellis Short must be considered the ultimate testament to his success.

The club's stature and it's realistic ambitions have simply outgrown Quinn's influence. The region alone can no longer sustain the club's continued growth, and with Financial Fair Play rules about to come into effect, neither can Short's generosity.

So what better man to go out and sell the Sunderland gospel to the world than the out-going chairman?

Quinn was the man who inspired sufficient belief in the club to a consortium of businessmen to bankroll his Sunderland dream. He was the man who re-ignited the passions of apathetic fans who had grown far too accustomed to football-induced misery and enabled them to power its revival.

He was the man who sought out further investment and expertise when more clout was needed to keep the club moving forward, and came back with a self-made billionaire in tow.

In many ways, the man who replaces Quinn looks a far more suitable leader for a club looking to traverse the choppy waters of the established Premier League top order. He most-certainly didn't earn his fortune without the kind of ruthless streak that he predecessor lacked yet anyone wishing to succeed at this level of the game requires. All in all, it would appear to be an aggressive and positive move from the club.

On the pitch itself, very little appears to be changing. The 2-2 draw with WBA was a frustrating continuation of the inability to make home advantage count which has blighted Bruce for months.

Following the debacle at Carrow Road the week before, fans could be forgiven for expecting the Black Cats to start the game with their claws out, desperate to make amends.

But one flat set piece and one ricochet through the centre of the defence was all that was required to leave them 2-0 down and once again chasing the game on home soil.

To their credit, and largely thanks to virtuoso performances from the front pairing of Niklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon, they chased it well. Bendtner especially has added a massive slice of genuine quality to the final third and is proving to be the kind of player upon which midfield players can thrive.

Without a natural goalscorer at his disposal, the Dane's ability to transform the midfield into something resembling a goal threat with clever hold-up play will be pivotal to any winning formula that Steve Bruce can concoct this season.

Despite the disappointing result, some chinks of light just started to appear last week. But having lost the protection of Niall Quinn, Bruce will likely know that the time for excuses and pleas for patience is quickly coming to an end.

MICHAEL GRAHAM

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