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Quinn needs another fast turnaround in fortunes
8:42am Monday 14th August 2006 in Sport
Sunderland 2, Plymouth Argyle 3.
NIALL QUINN experienced the wrath of the Wearside faithful when he was a player and now he is having to deal with it as the figurehead of Sunderland Football Club.
But, after hearing the chorus of boos that echoed around the Stadium of Light from the few thousand supporters that had stayed for the final whistle on Saturday, Quinn is in no mood to make excuses; in fact he holds sympathy for them.
Just as Mick McCarthy seemed to do on endless occasions last season, as the Black Cats lost game after game in the Premiership, his successor has to try to convince the weary fans that success will come back to this well-supported club.
It was ten years ago when, as Peter Reid's then record signing, Quinn arrived in the North-East for £1.3m from Manchester City.
In his first season at Roker Park he injured his cruciate ligaments and sat out much of the campaign.
The following season, after relegation from the top-flight, he was at full fitness and ready for a tilt at the league now called the Championship.
But things did not go to plan. In the second home game, Quinn burst through with just the keeper to beat and missed. Norwich City emerged with the points.
Quinn was barracked. But from that point on Sunderland went on a 13-match unbeaten run and they ended up in the play-offs when they lost to Charlton.
Quinn, who became a cult hero with the fans, knows how quickly things can change at Sunderland and he is ready to shed his nice guy image to ensure it does.
"We've got to make winning a habit. When things weren't so good at this club, it was a bit of steel, a bit of heart from people that changed things," said Quinn, recalling the days under Reid when the tide did turn.
"That got us through the period where it was uncomfortable to play here. We believe it will come. We haven't been here a long time.
"If we get the signings right and if we can lift the better players out of the gloom, then it can happen.
"Those who react positively will stay around and though I don't want to be too critical, this is a serious situation. It's survival for the tough now.
"The Sunderland people are desperate for us to do well. I don't think they want to moan and groan.
"I don't think they're moaning and groaning for the sake of it, or because it's a habit that's crept into their lives.
"I think they really want us to do well and you could see in that good spell, what the crowd can do."
With only Kenny Cunningham and Clive Clarke around on Saturday who were not part of the squad that crashed to 29 defeats in the Premiership last season, it is easy to see why the fall-out from that disastrous campaign rumbles.
Worryingly for Quinn and his staff, it is difficult to see how an injection of new quality can be added to the existing crop after such a woeful opening to life in the Football League.
Three defeats is bad enough but to have lost two home games already is hardly going to instil any member of the squad with confidence, never mind the fresh faces being targeted by Quinn.
The 39-year-old is full of bright ideas which are a refreshing change on Wearside but, even so, the likes of Republic of Ireland winger Andy Reid must have serious reservations about leaving Champions League hopefuls Tottenham for a side already in the Championship's relegation zone.
"Peoples' thoughts when they first go into a football club are to see what they have, what things they need to strengthen," said Quinn.
"We've got an extra thing there - a gremlin to deal with, which is a lack of confidence throughout the club.
"Some of them are good enough to come through that, but some of them won't make the cut.
"The closure of the transfer window is looming. I know I've got to bring one or two in - maybe more - to give us a chance of getting rid of that gremlin."
There were plenty signs on Saturday that the gremlin being talked about by Quinn was going to be eradicated.
Ultimately, though, there were also many indications that illustrated why the gremlin will be around for a while yet.
When Daryl Murphy burst through to meet Tommy Miller's neat flick after just 26 seconds to slot past Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick, that elusive win looked to be on the cards.
But David Norris was afforded too much space on the right of Sunderland's penalty area by Danny Collins and the winger took a touch before directing his shot into Alnwick's far corner.
Collins had the opportunity to make amends on the half hour when he blasted a shot from 12 yards over the bar, after Plymouth failed to deal with Dean Whitehead's free-kick from the right.
And nine minutes later the experienced head of Cunningham, brought into shore up a leaky defence, went back to his school days to gift Barry Hayles a goal.
Hayles made the most of the centre-back's pass to Alnwick and, after rounding the keeper, his right-foot shot curled into the empty net despite the best efforts of Collins to prevent it on the line.
Collins went close again when his header was cleared off the line by Paul Connolly but, after Stephen Elliott had pulled things level with a header from Murphy's cross, the defender's day got considerably worse.
He failed to deal with a routine ball over the top with nine minutes remaining and substitute Nick Chadwick capitalised by brushing him aside and slotting underneath Alnwick to claim the points.
That goal arrived at a time when Sunderland, with four strikers on the pitch, had looked like winning the game and could have done so had McCormick not tipped Chris Brown's header onto the crossbar.
But that would have been harsh on a Plymouth side who, under the likeable Ian Holloway, continue to motor and sit proudly among the unbeaten quartet at the top of the Championship.
Quinn and Sunderland, in their current predicament, can only dream of such a position.