History: The Towering Arsenal, Sunderland and Man City star striker Nial Quinn

Nial Quinn- One of Arsenals unluckiest players to miss out on a title.

After failing to make it at Fulham after a trial with the Cottagers, Nial Quinn moved to North London signing a professional contract with Arsenal in 1983.

He was brought in as a striker but also endured a brief spell at centre back for The Gunners Third team. After netting 18 times in 18 reserve games in the first stage of the 1985/86 campaign, Quinn was added to the first team for a tough encounter versus title contenders Liverpool. Quinn scored on his debut versus the Merseysiders after Arsenal collected a 2-0 victory. He would turn out in another 11 games that season but was unable to score again, with The Gunners reaching seventh in the league. However, he would later be called up for Republic of Ireland at the finish of the campaign.

Quinn ended up featuring underneath brand-new coach George Graham who took over the reins at Highbury from Don Howe. Quinn secured himself a solid position in the first team, making 35 performances in the league and finding the back of the net eight times. He also grabbed a League Cup Winners medal after Arsenal shrugged off Liverpool in 1987 at Wembley.

Despite earning silverware Quinn faced a bit of a dead end after Alan Smith was purchased during the year. This saw him play only 20 times netting five times in the First Division over the course of the next three years. After only playing three times for Arsenal during the 1988/89 season which saw The Gunner lift the title in dramatic style at Liverpool on the final day, Quinn failed to qualify for a winner’s medal.  With Graham not as keen on starting Quinn anymore, he asked to leave Highbury, which was accepted. After playing in 94 matches for Arsenal he grabbed 20 strikes.

Quinn travelled over three hours up the road to sign for Manchester City in a deal equivalent to £800,000 during March 1990 with not long left till the transfer deadline. He pulled on the Citizens shirt for the first time in a 1-1 draw versus Chelsea at Maine Road (their old ground). He netted 22 times in his opening season, and he would stay for the remaining six campaigns, scoring 78 times in 245 matches. His period at City was disrupted by a crucial ligament injury in the 1993/94 campaign. However, he came back into the team the next year dispatching eight goals in 35 matches.

His most famous game for the Citizens was on April 20th, 1991, when he fired in a penalty early on during an encounter which witnessed Derby County relegated 2-1. Manchester City goalkeeper Tony Coton had been handed the red card and with no goalkeeper on the bench Quinn went in goal. Another standout match for Quinn was against Derby again in November 1993 where he netted twice before the break, although after a spectacular comeback from The Rams, City were beaten 3-2.

Towards the dying stages of the season in 1993, Everton put in an asking price for Quinn before another one was slotted in during the 1993/94 campaign however both offers were denied. Quinn stayed put at Maine Road for the next three years. A crucial ligament injury picked up in a game versus Sheffield Wednesday of November 1993 made Quinn lose out on the vast collection of 1993/94 matches. This saw Quinn not picked for the 1994 World Cup. He re-entered for the beginning of the 1994/95 campaign, although the duo of Uwe Rosler and Paul Walsh witnessed Quinn stand on the sideline on a number of occasions. In the aim of tackling the wage bill, City looked to let Quinn go in the final stages of the 1995 campaign asking if he was interested in signing fir Sporting Lison although contract negotiations fell short.

After 194 starts in nearly seven years at Manchester City altogether Quinn left with 64 strikes.

Quinn spent the final duration of his playing days at Sunderland being brought for £1.3 million in August 1996, however he was physically unable to play for six months of the campaign because of a knee injury. Before his injury settled in Quinn started off his time at The Black Cats handsomely scoring twice in a 4-1 romping of Nottingham Forest. With Quinn sidelined Sunderland aimed miserably at staying up in the Premier League whereby the end of the 1996/97 season despite the midfielder returning to the foray they had been demoted to the second tier of English football.

His right-hand man Kevin Philips who would transform into one of the greatest goal scorers the football league has ever seen, arrived towards the end of the 1997 campaign. In the dying of the 1990s and opening years of the 2000s Quinn and Philips teamed up to score a brace of 194 goals together, starting from 1997 and coming to an anti-climax in 2003. They both assisted Sunderland to promotion to the Premiership once again in the 1999/2000 season. In March of 1999 Quinn found himself in goal again almost ten years after taking over from Coton at City against Derby, in this incident he replaced an injured Thomas Sorensen in a match versus Bradford City. Ironically, he had netted before going in goal just like he had done before he went in goal for the Citizens however this time round, he secured a clean sheet as The Black Cats tasted victory.

On top of this achievement, he picked up the accolade of the first footballer to score at the brand spanking new Stadium of Light, with Sunderland hosting Quinns old friends Manchester City. Sooner rather than later he became a folklore figure at The Black Cats after being voted for the Sunderland and Northeast Sportswriter’s Player of the Year awards in 1999, after bagging 21 strikes in Sunderland’s historic season which saw them set the record for the most points achieved in Division One (now Championship) glory campaign. His last game for Sunderland occurred on 19th October 2002 to West Ham United.

In almost 20 years of football league action Quinn had enjoyed 475 games rounding up 114 goals.

In an international career spanning from 1986 to 2002 Quinn was called up a mighty 92 times scoring 21 times.

He played first of all for Republic of Ireland during the 1986 UEFA European under-18 Football Championship, turning out for under-17 team versus Northern Ireland in a 6-1 noncompetitive game victory in 1985. This was the first ever encounter between the two countries. Quinn claimed a hat-trick during the 90 minutes. Despite his International heroics Arsenal rejected him the chance to feature in the 1985 FIFA World Youth Championships.

Quinn was selected for his first team debut coming off the bench as a substitute versus the country holding the Iceland Triangular Tournament of 1986. Quinn ran out for The Republic of Ireland for the 1990 and 2002 World Cups. Quinn was also a part of the Irish team that entered the 1988 European Championship featuring only in one match as a substitute in a historic 1-0 win over England.

Quinn slotted in the leveller versus the Netherlands during the 1990 World Cup witnessing the Republic of Ireland advance to the second round of the competition. In the qualifying stages of the 2002 World Cup, he scored versus Cyprus to celebrate his 35th Birthday to surpass his nation’s goalscoring record which was then in the hands of Frank Stapleton. In the main part of the World Cup, he assisted Robbie Keane’s later equaliser against Germany with his head dashingly being the only goal they let in before reaching the final. In the second round witnessing Republic of Ireland a goal down to Spain, Quinn was fouled which set up his country for the penalty in the final moments of the match fired in Keane, taking the toss up to extra-time before Ireland narrowly lost 3-2 on penalties.

After the competition he declared his retirement from playing for his country, when he was then his nation’s top goalscorer which was later beaten by Roy Keane in 2004.

Quinn had the pleasure of being allowed a testimonial game held between Sunderland and Republic of Ireland in 2002. He gave the donations from the game to charity, which led to him receiving an MBE in 2003. Quinn got the choice of playing for his country and club once more during the occasion which made over £1 million. His country paraded 3-0 winners over the North-Eastern side.

Quinn returned to Sunderland in 2006 which commenced poorly losing his opening four matches in the league. In late August Sunderland faced Bury away where they were defeated 2-0. After a short and soul-destroying time as manager he announced after the game that a new head coach would be hired before the next match. Quinn would stand aside resuming his status of chairman laying the foundations for Roy Keane to take over.

In late 2011 Ellie Short stole the spot as Chairman at the Black Cats with Quinn handed Director of International Development of the outfit. He stayed in this position before jumping down in February 2012.

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