Early Doors

Quinn exit leaves Bruce exposed

Early Doors

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When Steve Bruce and Niall Quinn shared a man hug in the tunnel following a comeback in Saturday's 2-2 draw against West Brom that offered the manager a stay of execution, it was widely interpreted as a welcome show of unity for Bruce as he desperately attempts to cling on to his job.

Just two days later, and the news emanating from the Stadium of Light that Quinn - a staunch Bruce ally - has stepped down from his position as chairman after five years and moved into a role driving something frighteningly nebulous called "international development" suggests it may have merely been a hug goodbye. It remains to be seen whether this parting of ways between Bruce and Quinn is indeed temporary, or becomes something altogether more permanent.

While Sunderland are adamant that their boardroom reshuffle, which sees owner Ellis Short step forward to replace Quinn as chairman, does not weaken Bruce's position, many others are sceptical as the manager will be deprived of an important firewall between himself and the boss man, a moderating influence should poor results continue.

Early Doors would certainly feel somewhat insecure if the editor who tolerated its various failings - turning up late and stinking of booze, abject refusal to write anything positive about John Terry, continual inability to spell Diniyar Bilal.. Biyal.. Billy... that guy from Everton's name properly - left to be replaced by one of the big cheeses, with a more unforgiving streak.

Local reports suggest Quinn was the "main man" driving the change and that he will still be in regular contact with the club to advise on football matters. It is believed that he has been seeking a new challenge for some time.

However, there have already been whispers that Quinn could be in line to replace Garry Cook at Manchester City, another of his former clubs, even if at present he seems entirely happy about undertaking the challenge of, in the club's words, "developing Sunderland's profile and business interest overseas".

Sticking firmly to the party line, Quinn told the club's official website: "This is a great opportunity for us to make the club stronger and I'm delighted that Ellis has agreed to support the plan. He'll be a fantastic chairman and taking this role on speaks volumes about his ambition for the club."

The statement suggests that it was firmly Quinn's decision to step away from day-to-day football activities in an effort to try and further the club's penetration into global markets, which ED finds a bit strange as it always had Quinn down as every inch a football man. Certainly he does not have a reputation as a hard-nosed businessman with an interest in tapping economic opportunities in Asia.

However, he will now be tasked with expanding Sunderland's global brand, a mission that, like painting Scotland's Forth Rail Bridge, is surely so large and onerous that it will never be finished. After all, ED doesn't exactly imagine that 'Bardsley 2' shirts are all the rage in Beijing and Bamako at the moment.

ED has visions of Quinn setting up stall in a Cairo bazaar and bartering with locals over deals for Elmohamady shirts, or sweet talking shopkeepers in Seoul like an out-of-his-depth Apprentice contestant as he attempts to flog mouse mats and keyrings with Ji Dong-Won's face on them.

Certainly there is work to do. After the departure of former manager Roy Keane, the likes of Liam Miller and Daryl Murphy, and the previous Drumaville consortium, Sunderland have probably seen their influence contract in the only foreign market in which they can have had any real significance: Ireland.

Now the world is Quinn's oyster. Well, an oyster with an impenetrable shell, at least - because ED can't see the club generating huge revenue streams with the likes of Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea as competition.

A visit to Korea, with Bruce in tow, is planned already, while Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne also said "trips to territories such as Vietnam, India, Abu Dhabi and Africa are also taking place in the coming months".

Just don't tell the poultry magnates at Venky's that India is in Sunderland's sights or they will have to fly Steve Kean and the boys back over at some point in the future for another celebratory tour of glory after that fluke result against Arsenal.

Sunderland's justification for the development was also slightly curious as they said a desire to comply with incoming UEFA regulations was vital. Of course, they should know that first they need a team capable of qualifying for European competition, and not stuck at the wrong end of the table.

The previously rather anonymous Short, who has put over £100m of his own money into Sunderland, explained: "I can assure our fans that it's the same group of people continuing to lead the club. With financial fair play rules coming into effect it is essential for the long-term success of the club that we develop interests on a global scale and there's no one better than Niall to sell the ethos of Sunderland to an international audience.

"He has been keen to drive this change for some time and I agree that it's the way forward for us now. Assuming the position of chairman is a great honour and I will treat the role as guardian of this club with the utmost respect."

Whether he is as generous with his patience with Bruce as Quinn was, however, remains to be seen.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Absolutely not true. Yes, people were joking about it in the club but it was his decision to rest me. They're not going to drop me for a doughnut. The manager is the one who decides. He rotates the players a lot and when he thinks it's the right thing to do, he leaves you on the bench. A few of my team-mates gave me a few doughnuts as a joke. But I took it in good humour and thought the whole thing was funny." - David De Gea denies that hitting the headlines for eating a doughnut without paying in Tescos last week was behind his omission from the Manchester United team that faced Norwich City at the weekend.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Although it may not be the decisive match in the qualifiers, the clash with England is the game of the decade for us because we don't play teams at that level very often. We are all confident that we can get a result which would leave us in contention for a play-off berth. We know it's likely it will go down to the wire, meaning our last game away to the Swiss, so we are taking it one game at a time aware that we have to produce our best football in both encounters." - Montenegro defender Milan Jovanovic talks up the importance of Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier against England.

COMING UP: The latest instalment of the Euro Club Index will reveal which sides across the continent have been on the rise, and which have been on the slide following another weekend of action. Meanwhile the Armchair Pundit files his latest blog post at 1pm.

Our weekly Hot or Not video takes a sideways glance at the Premier League action over the weekend while the Whistle Blower analyses one of the more contentious incidents from the weekend. See if you can guess which one...

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