‘This feels different’ – Niall Quinn believes Sunderland ready to end 49 years of Wembley misery

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As a player, Quinn suffered the agony of gut-wrenching play-off defeat in a penalty shoot-out against Charlton in 1998, and the Black Cats’ luck was no kinder three years ago – but he believes Alex Neil will deliver a different outcome against Wycombe

Niall Quinn knows all about Wembley heartbreak with Sunderland (

Image: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock)

Sunderland royalty Niall Quinn thumbed through half a century of Mackems misery at Wembley and predicted: “This time it feels different.”

As a player, Quinn suffered play-off heartbreak after a penalty shoot-out against Charlton 24 years ago after the Black Cats had led the final three times. And since his spell as chairman at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland have extended their gift for losing major Wembley finals to almost 50 years, dating back to the 1973 FA Cup triumph against Leeds.

But as he surveyed the scene of so many tears on Wearside, Quinn – now 55 – hailed the impact of new manager Alex Neil, a play-off winner with Norwich seven years ago.

Ready, steady, up: Alex Neil in charge of Sunderland
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Image:

Paul Greenwood/REX/Shutterstock)

“Sunderland’s record here is awful, you can’t ignore it, but there’s something different about this game,” he said. “I think the impact this manager has had on the club and the team, in a short space of time, has taken everybody by surprise and you can now sense the ambition and the belief around the city.

“The worries of the past melt away because he’s got a team who fight to the end and they keep scoring late goals to get where they want to go. I just get the feeling that manager has changed the mindset. They are here on merit – they haven’t crawled in through the back door because others have slipped up.

“And it’s all the more encouraging because there is a sense of unity, everyone fighting for the cause. When Jermain Defoe came back, everyone thought he was going to score the goals that won promotion – but that fizzled out.

“Then there was talk of Roy Keane coming back as manager, and everyone thought he would lead them out of the wilderness again, but that hype fizzled out.

Patrick Roberts of Sunderland celebrates after scoring their winner vs Sheffield Wednesday in the play-off semi-final
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Image:

Getty Images)

“Maybe when the new manager wasn’t Roy Keane there was a bit of a lull – but Alex Neil had to dig the players out of that lull, and the way he has galvanised the team to play with spirit and belief has been nothing short of exceptional.

“Now they are at Wembley, why would they revert to being scared on the big stage. We know the team they are facing have a rock-star manager (Gareth Ainsworth) who gets every last drop from his players, but this Sunderland team will not be pushovers.”

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