FORMER Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn admits he is still at a loss to understand why Martin O’Neill’s Stadium of Light tenure proved unsuccessful.
Two men who were both appointed as Sunderland managers by Quinn now find themselves in charge of the Republic of Ireland after O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane took up their new roles earlier this month.
Ex-Ireland striker Quinn is confident the pair will prove to be successful on the international stage after overseeing a friendly victory over Latvia in their first game in charge.
But Quinn says he remains puzzled that O’Neill flopped as Black Cats boss after the former Aston Villa manager was axed at the Stadium of Light last March.
“Martin alone, even without Roy there, would create passion and electricity,” said Quinn.
“We saw that against Latvia, the way the players were running around, the energy they were exuding.
“And I witnessed that impact when Martin came to Sunderland. I just can’t believe it wasn’t sustained.
“When I left, we had just beaten Arsenal and moved to eighth in the table. Within a year he was gone. That’s Sunderland’s loss and Ireland’s gain.
“Martin has never really spoken about what happened and I wasn’t there so I cannot explain it either but for the life of me, I will never understand why he is not Sunderland manager.”
Quinn believes O’Neill can act as a mentor to Keane, who spent more than two years out of management after his dismissal at Ipswich Town.
And in turn, the ex-Sunderland frontman says Keane will help the younger players in the Ireland set-up by passing his wealth of experience.
“What’s essential for the two of them is that Martin’s message is being added to by Roy,” said Quinn.
“It seems to me that he (Keane) has his mind concentrated on what he has to do in this job. It is a great opportunity for him.
“I looked at the body language of the two of them during the Latvia game and the whole thing seemed to work really well. The times ahead in Irish football are exciting.
“Martin will get the best out of Roy. You can already tell from some of the comments that the players are enjoying working under Roy. The double impact of both men is rubbing off.
“I remember when I was a young player at Arsenal and Jack Charlton (former Ireland boss) came to watch me.
“That gave my confidence a huge lift. Imagine now how a young player will feel when Martin or Roy stops to speak to them.
“They’ll grow enormously because this is a box-office appointment. It is rock and roll.”