Sunday Mirror




SUNDERLAND legend Niall Quinn is convinced his former club have rediscover­ed their soul and are now on a journey which will take them back to the Premier League.

That was the Black Cats’ natural habitat during his days alongside striker Kevin Phillips in one of the top flight’s most fearsome double acts.

And it was where they returned when he took over as chairman, appointed Roy Keane as manager and, as Quinn famously said, “embarked on a magic carpet ride”.

It is now a decade since the tall Irishman left Sunderland – a period of doom, gloom and despair for the club’s long-suffering fans.

But Quinn (below) sensed a mood shift at Wembley two months ago when Alex Neil’s side shattered their play-off hoodoo by beating Wycombe 2-0 to end their League One exile.

He will not be at the Stadium of Light when Sunderland launch their Championsh­ip campaign at home to Coventry.

But he believes that the club is now much more like the one he fell in love with when he first arrived there.

“Anyone who witnessed those emotional scenes at Wembley will know Sunderland is alive and kicking again,” said the 52-year-old.

“To see the expression on my son Michael’s face on the final whistle, after enduring so much heartache, was a wonderful moment.

“And watching almost 50,000 joyous fans celebratin­g promotion brought it all back to me. It was a timely reminder what this wonderful club means to them and to me.

“Hope is in the air again and there’s a bond between club and fan base which has been missing for far too long.

“That’s vital because a divided club is invariably a struggling one.”

And Quinn feels Mackem fanaticism can go a long way towards restoring former glories.

He added: “It’s an open secret that, in recent years, managers of opposition teams would tell their players to keep Sunderland quiet for 20 minutes, nick a goal and the crowd would turn.

“Well, I suspect we’re going to see the flip-slide of that now.

“When I was playing, not even the top teams relished a visit to Wearside, knowing they were up against 12 men.

“Now, they’ve seen the upside of having such support and, with a shrewd man like Alex Neil in charge, I think they’ll channel it to good effect.

“I’m feeling confident again.”

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 ?? ?? ON THE UP Black Cats boss Alex Neil
ON THE UP Black Cats boss Alex Neil

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