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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: NIALL QUINN, Ireland and Sunderland MARCH 17th, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Well if you are a Premiership striker, a world class player, chances are that money worries won't be high on your list of concerns, so some may have been surprised to learn that most top class footballers are given the entire proceeds of their testimonial matches. You will remember perhaps that in the old days testimonials were designed to help push a few extra shillings into the pockets of then impecunious veteran footballers. Well, one international star is bucking the trend right now and it's an inspiring tale, Sunderland and Ireland striker Niall Quinn is planning on giving away every single penny of his testimonial. He'll be the first player ever to do that and here he is, Niall welcome.
NIALL QUINN: Good morning, thanks.
DAVID FROST: We were delighted to find a Sunday that you're in London though perhaps you wished yesterday afternoon that you weren't.
NIALL QUINN: Oh that's right. We had a bad day yesterday at Stamford Bridge but football's like that, you know, the script was to have a good day yesterday and be in great form for St Patrick's Day but it didn't quite work out that way.
DAVID FROST: That's right, well I'm glad you've got the shamrock there anyway. And the, now tell me, when you came to this decision about your testimonial, what was the reasoning behind it?
NIALL QUINN: Well I kind of made my mind up many years ago, the feeling was that if I ever was lucky enough to reach the quota that it would be a nice payback thing to do. Because I mean I'm still living the life of the dream, you know, the schoolboy dream that I always had - I'm 35 years of age, still living it, and of course I'm paid very well to boot so I just felt if I ever reached the quota of caps for Ireland, which was 50 originally, that I would give the game to charity. Obviously that was over a period of time, I reached 49 caps and the goalposts were moved, they were moved from 50 to 75, so I thought it wasn't going to work out but then I got to 74 and it was also capped - sorry the caps were stopped completely and so the testimonials were finished. So I just missed out and I made the point to my chairman one day, Bob Murray at the races - my Sunderland chairman - that if only they'd known that I was going to give the game to charity maybe they'd have allowed me have it, and somewhere along the way he thought I'll try and put that in place and fantastically he came up with the goods and the mechanism was in place for me to stage the game at the Stadium of Light, which would have a bigger crowd and a more meaningful game than perhaps, you know, a smaller game in Dublin on a rented pitch.
DAVID FROST: And the hope is, the target is - what? To raise a million pounds?
NIALL QUINN: Yes, I mean our stadium in Sunderland can hold 48,000 people, the match is against Ireland, the actual team that will be going to the World Cup, and it's appeal to the people so far - I mean it's nine weeks before the game and we're still overwhelmed by the reaction that we've had and, you know, the tickets are well over half sold which is, you know, again unheard of this far away from a game and with other things, off-field stuff and the generosity of people around we're creeping up to a situation where we're confident we'll get a million pounds.
DAVID FROST: Great, it's an amazing thought to give away a million pounds. You must gulp slightly when you think ...
NIALL QUINN: Well in a way it has been astonishingly the reaction of people, I think that's been the greatest thing I've gotten from it. I mean I don't think I'd have made a million pounds, I don't - I think I'd have had a struggle to convince people to come and celebrate my career but this helped, no doubt, by giving it away.
DAVID FROST: Now how did you decide who the money should go to?
NIALL QUINN: Well, I'm from Crumlin in Dublin and the biggest children's hospital in Ireland is in Crumlin and I passed by it every day going to school and I've called to visit it a couple of times when I was a youngster. And I know my very good friend, my best friend's wife works there and just in chatting over dinner one night she was telling me about problems that the public wouldn't see and one of the areas where, you know, infectious diseases amongst children, which covers a wide range of diseases, they'd actually no ward, as such - which is astonishing, I felt, in a huge hospital and Ireland's biggest hospital. So I kind of thought if I do get this game maybe I could give half the money to that - because it's Ireland and it's my Irish career that's being celebrated - and with Sunderland providing the opposition and the majority of the crowd I felt I could reciprocate and split the other half of the money to a hospital in Sunderland - the Royal Hospital which has a children's department.
DAVID FROST: Fantastic story. Now tell me are you thinking of going on with Ireland and Sunderland?
NIALL QUINN: Well the World Cup's coming up in the summer with Ireland and I'd love to make it, I've been to one before and -
DAVID FROST: You've scored more goals in fact for the Republic of Ireland than any other player.
NIALL QUINN: Yeah, which is more a testament really to me being around a long time as opposed to being a great goal scorer but I think I've stood the test of time and eventually the record came my way but I made heavy weather of it over the years but it's been wonderful.
DAVID FROST: Well here's you in action with an unusual result - not the goal but what it did. This was the World Cup final.
NIALL QUINN: Yeah, it was twelve years ago against Holland. It was a strange night because that was the first time I was ever picked to start a competitive game for Ireland and it was such a big game, we were out in Italy, World Cup, it was on tenterhooks, it was the last game in the group and England were in our group as well, Holland, of course were a great team, and Egypt, and between my goal, I think Ruud Gullit scored for Holland and I think Mark Wright scored for England and between us all we managed to get us three through to the next phase.
DAVID FROST: But by that goal, you not only got the Republic of Ireland through but you got England through because you -
NIALL QUINN: Well because Mark Wright had scored earlier in their game, so yeah, a mixture of things meant that Ireland and England both went through and it turned out to be, you know, a fabulous tournament for both countries. We reached the quarter finals, we were supposedly a minnow nation that were there on our holidays, we had a wonderful time, we put our sort of, our mark on international football and of course Bobby Robson was penalty kicks away from reaching the World Cup finals itself - so. It was a wonderful time.
DAVID FROST: That was so dramatic. So what do you think of the two teams, the Republic of Ireland and England's chances?
NIALL QUINN: Well, I'm glad we're not in England's group, I think, you know, we'll put a brave face up always and say, you know, oh we're in hard group and it's going to be very difficult - which it will be of course - but I think we've, I think we've a more decent chance of making progress than England. I mean England have a very, very tough group. The group of death is what they're calling it, I mean I think it's even worse than that, I mean I -
DAVID FROST: What's worse than death?
NIALL QUINN: Well I think, I suppose in football terms I think there could be a couple of managers jobs on the line in that group.
DAVID FROST: Really, yes. It's going to be tough. Well when we read all these stories about sixty thousand pounds a week and all those things, but more particularly stories of violence like yesterday, with the extraordinary game having to be postponed because they were down, Sheffield United were down to six players, this is a very inspiring, upbeat story. This is showing a different face of soccer.
NIALL QUINN: Possibly. I mean, I'm well aware of the fact that this probably took off more so because football was in need of a good story, with everything that had happened since the start of the season, you know, right away we were involved in a players' strike which kind of shook the foundations of football and then there's been various individual incidents, the Leeds players, the trial, there's been crowd trouble at matches which hasn't happened for a long time and then of course yesterday's game was quite astonishing, apart, I mean nobody could have foreseen that a game would end up like that - a professional game.
DAVID FROST: So literally no one would write that as a fictional story because it would be dismissed as impossible.
NIALL QUINN: Absolutely, loony if you felt it was ever going to happen. And I think that, you know, the thing I've noticed, I've spoken to a couple of Sheffield fans, and they're embarrassed about it and I think that tells it's own story, you know, it was a bad day for football.
DAVID FROST: Well this is a good story for football. Niall may the game - now what date is it - May -
NIALL QUINN: It's Tuesday the 14th of May.
DAVID FROST: Tuesday the 14th of May at the Stadium of Light.
NIALL QUINN: Yes.
DAVID FROST: Niall, thank you very much.
NIALL QUINN: Thank you very much.
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