Niall Quinn: Mr Nice Guy

irish striker niall quinn

Player Profile: Niall Quinn

Date of Birth: 06/10/1966 

Height: 6 ft 4 in

Position: Striker 

National Team: Republic Of Ireland

International Caps: 92

International Goals: 21

Club Career

A Sunderland legend, both on and off the field, Niall Quinn was born in Dublin in 1966. From an early age it was clear to see that he was a talented athlete. Like most Irish youngsters Quinn played multiple sports including Gaelic Football, Hurling and football, all at a high level. Aged 16, Quinn was offered a contract to play professional Australian Rules Football after featuring in the 1983 All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Final. Instead, he opted to pursue a career in football. 

Playing for local side Manortown United as a teenager Quinn attracted the attention of numerous English clubs. He first had a trial with Fulham in 1983 before signing for Arsenal later that year.

With his height and physical presence, Quinn was an old fashioned centre forward but spent a brief spell playing centre back for the Arsenal academy. During the 1985/86 season, Quinn was moved back to centre forward for the reserve side, and the rest you could say is history. He scored 18 goals in as many games for the reserves, earning him a call up to the senior team where he scored in a 2-0 debut win against Liverpool.

Quinn went on to make a further 11 appearances that season but failed to find the net again. He ended the season on a high though, as he received his first international call up for the Republic of Ireland.

After a poor season by Arsenal’s standards, the club decided to replace manager Don Howe with George Graham. Quinn was one of several players to benefit from the change as he was given more game time under the new gaffer. The Irishman made 35 league appearances during the 1986/87 season, scoring 8 goals. He ended the campaign with a League Cup winner’s medal as Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final.

His lack of goals though, would prove costly. In the summer of 1987, Graham signed another target man in Alan Smith. Subsequently, Quinn began to find game time hard to come by. He made just 20 league appearances across the next three seasons scoring only five goals. Inevitably Quinn handed in a transfer request and in March 1990, shortly before the transfer deadline, he signed for Manchester City for a fee of £800,000.

Quinn’s City career got off to a flyer with a goal on his debut. He went on to score three more goals that campaign in his 9 league appearances. The 1990/91 season would turn out to be the most prolific of his career. Quinn scored 20 league goals in 38 appearances, but the season will always be remembered for his penalty save against Derby. City keeper Tony Coton was sent off – back then teams rarely named a substitute keeper on their bench – so Quinn went in goal.

In total Quinn scored 66 league goals in 193 appearances for Manchester City. His time at Maine Road was severely hampered by a cruciate ligament injury which caused him to miss the majority of the 1993/94 season. Before that City had rejected two bids for the striker from league rivals Everton.

The beanpole striker returned for the start of the 1994/95 season but was now nothing more than a bit-part player. During his absence through injury, Uwe Rösler and Paul Walsh had forged a strong partnership. Therefore, the majority of Quinn’s appearances came from the bench. City attempted to move the Irishman on at the end of the season, but a move to Sporting Lisbon fell through with Quinn failing to agree personal terms.

The following summer Quinn departed Maine Road for Sunderland. Here he would become a club legend. He once again found the back of the net on his debut, scoring twice against Nottingham Forest before suffering yet another serious knee injury which ruled him out for six months. Quinn returned to the Sunderland first team towards the end of the season but could do nothing to prevent the club from being relegated.

In 1997 Sunderland signed Kevin Phillips and the striker forged a formidable partnership with Niall Quinn. They were the perfect little and large combo. Quinn provided a physical presence up top while Phillips utilised his pace to perfection. Together they were lethal and scored a combined 194 goals from 1997 to 2003.

Their goals helped Sunderland regain promotion to the Premier League during the 1999/2000 season. Quinn scored 18 goals in 39 appearances that season, his most prolific in a red and white shirt. As a result, Quinn was awarded both the Sunderland and North East Sportswriters’ Player of the Year awards.

Niall Quinn’s final appearance for Sunderland came in 2002 against West Ham United. Overall his professional playing career spanned 17 years during which he made 475 appearances and scored 141 goals in the Premier League and Football League.

International Career

Niall Quinn made his international senior debut aged 20 and went on to make 92 appearances in total scoring 21 goals. He represented his country at the 1990 World Cup where he scored the equaliser against Holland which helped Ireland progress to the knockout stage of the tournament. 

Twelve years later, aged 35, Quinn was again part of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup squad, and he delivered on the big stage. His header famously set up Robbie Keane’s late equaliser against Germany in the group stage.

In the knockout round, Ireland faced Spain. Trailing 1-0 with just minutes remaining Quinn won a penalty which Robbie Keane converted to force extra time. Spain ended up winning 3-2 on penalties.

After the tournament Quinn announced his retirement from international football. At the time he was his country’s all-time leading goal scorer. This record, though, would later be beaten by Robbie Keane. 

Where is Niall Quinn now?

After retiring from professional football, Niall Quinn took up a brief coaching role at Sunderland. He also made numerous appearances as a TV pundit, often working for Sky Sports. 

In June 2006 he headed the Drumaville Consortium and successfully brokered a deal to buy a controlling stake in Sunderland. A month later Quinn was named chairman and manager of the club, however, his managerial career didn’t quite go to plan.

The Black Cats lost their opening four league games and lost to Bury in the League Cup. As a result, Quinn stepped down as manager and focussed on being chairman of the club. He appointed former Republic of Ireland teammate Roy Keane as manager. At first, the decision raised some eyebrows, but in the end it turned out to be a masterstroke as Sunderland gained promotion to the Premier League after being crowned champions of the Championship.

Quinn stepped down from his role as chairman of Sunderland in 2011. He temporarily took up the position of Director of International Development before leaving the club in February 2012. 

In January 2020 Quinn was named interim deputy chief executive officer of the Football Association of Ireland.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Niall Quinn

– Niall Quinn was the first person to score at The Stadium Of Light. 

– Quinn went in goal twice during his career, and on both occasions he kept a clean sheet.