Bring it on!
New Sky Sports signing Niall Quinn says he can't wait for the new season to get underway.
Last Updated: 17/08/12 10:15am
The Premier League kick-off is just days away. Do you still get as excited about the first weekend of the season as you did when you were directly involved?
NIALL QUINN:Absolutely. Because I'm in a more neutral position now, rather than just spearheading one club's approach to it all, I can take in a lot more and enjoy it more. I loved what happened at the climax of last season - it was dream stuff for lovers and purveyors of football - and that will live long in the memory and helps us to believe that can happen again. I'm in a privileged position because I'll be attending lots of the games for Sky Sports and I'm looking forward to seeing it all unfold. Bring it on.
We're going to be seeing a lot more of you on our screens this year. Tell us how you got involved with Sky Sports.
NQ: Well, towards the end of last season I went to do some work for Sky Sports in a situation when it looked like it would be a quiet run-in because Man City were so far ahead. Then in a six-week period it looked as if they'd thrown it away only for Man United to throw it back at them. Then they seized the initiative and nearly threw it away again before it climaxed in those two injury time-goals on a final day that will never be forgotten. I went to Sky Sports to quietly re-join the football world for six weeks and it turned into a cataclysmic rollercoaster! Having been at Sunderland for six years focusing on one club it was a real bonus to be in the middle of it all as it all unfolded.
What are you hoping to bring to the job?
NQ: I'm in the privileged position of being asked to bring another voice to the table and I guess to bring some insight from my experiences. I've been in the boardroom, I've been on the pitch and I've dealt with agents in a way that other players wouldn't have. When I look at the Premier League I see the whole circle, not just the glory days. One of the first things I did last year was the day Wolves were relegated and I know exactly what that means behind the scenes. I hope the experiences I've had - from dressing room to coaches' room to boardroom to Sky Studios - will help to give people a different insight into things.
Have you found it nerve-wracking stepping into the commentary box and in front of the TV cameras?
NQ: No. I'm enthralled by the games and I get very excited. I really am like a fan down the pub with his mates and I'm the one doing the talking! I won't say I'm right all the time, but I have an opinion and I base that on a love for the game and the experiences I've got. I don't have agendas, but I'm the first to admit that if Sunderland are playing a game to win the league I might not be the most neutral analyst to put in! Apart from that I have a respect for every club.
It certainly would be a spectacular season if Sunderland are in the title hunt on the final day!
NQ: I don't know if Sunderland, as a city, would be able to cope with something like that...
How do you think they'll get on this season under Martin O'Neill?
NQ: I think they'll be solid. Martin has a fantastic record and they'll be a tight-knit unit, but I'd like to see a marquee signing; somebody who will make a difference. It seems to be no secret they are chasing Steven Fletcher and Martin won't settle for second best; he'll keep being dogged and push to make that transfer happen. People might have expected more signings but a solid squad has been built up over a period of time yet there's room for a top forward and I'm confident Martin will land his man before the August deadline.
Are you hoping to see much of them this year?
I'm actually going to go nice and quietly - behind one of the goals or whatever - to the game at the weekend. I'm working for Sky Sports on Super Sunday up at Manchester City, but I have a day off on Saturday and so I'll make my way to London and watch them against Arsenal with no pressures of the boardroom on my back! It should be a nice day out.
You will be at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Do you see one of your other former clubs, Man City, as title favourites?
NQ: My feeling is that Man City have the bit between their teeth now. As a football club they have tried to do in three years what Manchester United have done in over 20 years. They tried to get there very quickly and suddenly they're there, so can they do it again after such a draining effort last year? I doubt it will go as tight as it was last year, but we're in for a hell of a season because Man United are probably at their most dangerous when they're stung. They've bounced back time and time again over the years.
Do you think newly-promoted Southampton are dangerous opponents for them on the opening weekend?
NQ: It's a baptism of fire in some respects, but it's an opportunity for Southampton to show themselves to the world. They will hope Man City will perhaps start a bit slowly. It was a marvellous achievement for Southampton and not just the team; behind the scenes they have come through a period of disarray, got themselves together and got their rewards by getting into the Premier League. In Nigel Adkins they have a manager who brings something a little different to the table; he's an enthusiastic character who fills people with belief and he believes they can go further than they have in the past. The players have performed and his test now is to see if they can do it at the top level. I'd say he's a manager in the Ian Holloway mould and when his Blackpool side were in the Premier League they were incredible. Southampton may recreate a little bit of that.
Our first Super Sunday game of the season sees Wigan host Chelsea. What can we expect from that one?
NQ: Wigan finished last season in style. They played Arsenal off the park and beat Manchester United, which was incredible. That will stand them in good stead, but there are negatives of a run like that because the richer clubs come-a-courting and Victor Moses may end up leaving. However, it wasn't just the fact that they escaped, but the manner of the escape that will give them confidence. They played extremely good football, and their manager will be looking to them to start off in the same mould. Chelsea won't find things easy. Their manager is fairly new and players like Salomon Kalou and, in particular, Didier Drogba will be missed. But others have come in and it's fair to say that if they settle in then Chelsea can become a force yet again. We have two very interesting games.
After a month of Olympics fever do you think football fever will grip the nation again over the next nine months?
NQ: The Olympics was a fantastic distraction. Football may have stopped at the end of June after the Euros, but the Olympics has taken us through. In Ireland, our gold medal boxing winner Katie Taylor stopped the nation and we enjoyed the British athletes here in Ireland just as much as you guys did. If any sportsman at any level ever wants some inspiration then have a look at the last lap of Mo Farah's 5,000m with the cream of the world's runners coming at him in droves and fighting them off. That last lap, to me, epitomised everything that can be great about sport.
Can the Premier League live up to it?
Yes, it will. We'll have brilliance, we'll have drama, there will be mistakes and we'll see the same emotional twists as we saw in the Olympics. The difference is ours will hurt people a lot more because everybody's not shouting for the same team. Therein lies the spice. Will Wigan have their day out against Chelsea this weekend? Impossible things happen in the Premier League and that's why it's so brilliant. Let's take a deep breath and get stuck into the greatest league in the world.