Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
watch listen BBC Sport BBC Sport
Low graphics|Help
Last Updated: Sunday, 29 April 2007, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Quinn astonished by Keane success
By Andrew McKenzie

Roy Keane's rise to the top

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has admitted he is surprised by the speed at which manager Roy Keane has changed the club's fortunes.

Keane has taken the club from the foot of the Championship to promotion back to the top flight in eight months.

Quinn told BBC Sport: "We felt we would have to nurse him along, put structures in place and give him every opportunity to develop and learn his trade.

"But lo and behold he has astonished everyone and done it in record time."

From Championship chumps to promotion to the Premiership, BBC Sport charts the turnaround under Keane.


During a six-match spell as manager at the start of this season, Quinn saw the problems facing the club.

Coventry 2-1 Sunderland
Sunderland 0-1 Birmingham
Sunderland 2-3 Plymouth
Southend 3-1 Sunderland
Bury 2-0 Sunderland
Sunderland 2-0 WBA
"We played Coventry away and everyone was up for it but what astonished me was how deep the losing mentality was," said Quinn.

"When Coventry scored with 15 minutes to go our players looked at their boots and did anything but organise themselves.

"They gave a message that Sunderland were there to be beaten - and that's what Coventry did. I knew then we had a big losing mentality to get rid of."


When Keane took the Sunderland job at the end of August not everyone was convinced Quinn had appointed the "world-class" manager he had predicted.

Experts suggested it would not be long before the fiery Keane hit the self-destruct button, while bookmakers offered short odds on Keane blowing a fuse and storming out before Christmas.

Keane was in the stands among 24,242 fans when Sunderland faced West Brom on 28 August.

The Black Cats won 2-0 but it was only their second league success at the Stadium of Light in over a year.


Keane brought in six new faces on transfer deadline day, five of them leaving top-flight football in England or Scotland to join a side scrapping at the bottom of the Championship, while Dwight Yorke swapped sunny Sydney for Sunderland.

August: David Connolly, Liam Miller, Graham Kavanagh, Ross Wallace, Dwight Yorke, Stanislav Varga
January: Carlos Edwards, Anthony Stokes, Stern John, Danny Simpson (loan), Jonny Evans (loan)

But, despite the new arrivals, Quinn said: "Roy didn't come in and say I need him, him and him.

"We got in some players but he didn't get rid of anybody, he went in and looked at everything on the playing side and gave everyone a chance."

There was an instant upturn in results as 5,000 Sunderland fans made the trip to Derby and were rewarded with a 2-1 win.

Four days later they won 3-0 at Leeds and the bandwagon was up and running.

However, over the next few months some mixed results put a minor dent in the early optimism.


In January, about 5m was spent on bringing in further players, while Keane allowed eight players to leave the club.

He was steadily stamping his managerial mantra of belief, focus, team spirit and commitment on the club.

Since then the proof has been in the performances as Sunderland rattled off a 17-match unbeaten run to climb to the top of the table.

Nyron is going to be a hell of a player and Roy can take the plaudits for that

Niall Quinn
Keane used his contacts, bringing in players from Manchester United and Celtic - including the inspired loan signings of Jonny Evans and Danny Simpson.

But just as importantly as the new arrivals has been the transformation of some of the players already at the club.

Nyron Nosworthy's conversion from an unfashionable right-back to a uncompromising centre-half has been a big key to Sunderland's success.

Danny Collins, Grant Leadbitter and Darren Ward have also shone under Keane.

Quinn commented: "Danny was one of the players who was there last year and it has been phenomenal to see the turnaround.

"My favourite moment of the season was when he won a header against Burnley for David Connelly to equalise. He beat three people in the air and the only way I can describe it was it was like a Fosbury Flop. He got injured as a result but his desire to help the team was incredible.

"The run didn't quite start there but we certainly turned the corner in that game.

"The contribution that Danny and Grant Leadbitter are making - along with people like Daryl Murphy and even goalkeeper Darren Ward - is fantastic.

"Then there is Dean Whitehead. He is just a super talent and I think the benefit for him is he is working with the greatest exponent of the type of game he is trying to play. He is going to have a great career.

"As for Nyron - the guy just looks a brilliant player. You can see Nyron's confidence coming out with every game.

"They are brilliant things to see happen for a manager - to get that out of players in his first year is just incredible."


As a player Keane saw each game as a battle - as a manager he seems to view it as a game of chess.

During matches he seldom ventures from the dug-out - barking out instructions is not his style.

Goalkeeper Ward revealed: "He talks to us in a professional manner regardless what the score is. He trusts us to get on with our jobs - he's not animated in that sense."

Keane has been openly critical of his side only once (after victory at Sheffield Wednesday) and has generally remained positive after defeat.

The players will know that Keane is a guy who will be good for their career

Charlie Hurley

But players have learned quickly not to cross him - as Anthony Stokes, Marton Fulop and Toby Hysen found out when they were late for the team bus and he left them behind.

Sunderland legend Charlie Hurley said: "Keane has an individual desire that made him a great player and he has transformed that attitude to his players without having to shout and roar."

Even if the 'hairdryer effect' is used as a way to berate players it is unlikely to become common knowledge, his players are so well-drilled that what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room.

Former Sunderland skipper Gary Bennett covers all the club's games for BBC Radio Newcastle.

He stated: "Everyone thought he had this short fuse and we were all waiting for him to blow up but he has handled it very well.

"When things have been needed to be said he has done it indoors and it is left indoors.

"The way he has handled things as a manager - both on and off the pitch - he has been a role model for others. The media have fired questions at him and he has answered every one.

"The first week he came in he tried to get to know the media. We had a game against the staff - we were beaten 3-2 but I think we were always going to lose. They were going to play until they won.

"He got on well with everyone straightaway and he has been magnificent all season."


Perhaps it should be no surprise that a man who spent most of his career under Nottingham Forest legend Brian Clough and Manchester United great Sir Alex Ferguson should have taken to management so easily.

Whether Keane makes the difficult step from great player to great manager will be judged over years rather than his first season.

But the early signs hint at a potential mix of Ferguson's drive with Clough's ability to squeeze the best out of players.

Keane's side have also inherited Manchester United's knack for dramatic late goals.

Roy Keane
Genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration

Famous quote by American inventor Thomas Edison
Quinn refers to Keane as having that "little bit of genius".

"Knowing him as a player, being around him and knowing the level of focus he has I should not have been surprised by what has happened," said Quinn. "But I would be telling lies if I said I knew the way it was going to turn out.

"I thought he was capable of turning this club around but I thought it would take him more time to prove it.

"What we didn't foresee was how good he is at his job.

"When we looked at appointing him we knew he had been spending time looking at the coaching side - he didn't just stop playing and say 'I'm going to become a coach'.

"We knew in his last few years he had been actively seeking his badges, attending games, reserve games, obscure non-League games.

"We didn't pluck him from the sky, we knew what his desire levels were.

"But to do it the way he has done it has been brilliant - I've really enjoyed watching him work."

Keane's Sunderland success story
05 Mar 07 |  Sunderland
Inside Roy's revolution
12 Oct 06 |  Sunderland
The odd couple
27 Aug 06 |  Sunderland
Keane becomes new Sunderland boss
28 Aug 06 |  Sunderland
Quinn takes control of Sunderland
27 Jul 06 |  Sunderland


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us