Former Sunderland forward Niall Quinn admitted the dressing room became the “most magical place” after the Black Cats’ 1998 play-off final defeat by Charlton.
he former Republic of Ireland international was part of the side that were beaten by the Addicks in the First Division play-off final, losing 7-6 on penalties after an initial 4-4 draw.
However, Sunderland bounced back a season later after securing promotion to the Premier League by 105 points in a record-breaking season.
Quinn spoke on behalf of the EFL ahead of the Sky Bet League One play-off final of Sunderland vs Wycombe at Wembley on Saturday afternoon, where there is a Championship place up for grabs.
He said: “Our one (play-off final) in 1998 still reflects the pain and disappointment of having been so close. We were in the lead three times, I think in the game.
“My best memory of the day was the dressing room door slamming as we finally reached our dressing room, maybe half an hour after the last penalty.
“(The boss at the time) Peter Reid asked us to commit individually, one on one, ‘are we going to come back and give it a try and start on day one?’
“We had a terrible start to this season (1997-1998), we had a hangover after being in the Premier League the year before, we were relegated on the last day and we didn’t start for about 10-12 games but we drove great.
“Peter Reid asked the question, demanded signings from us and everyone committed to returning to the club and nobody would be looking for a transfer – he wouldn’t have to sign millions of players.
“We had our holiday, came back and had a great three years from that moment.
“We ran away with the Championship and had two great years in the Premier League. I think it came from the reaction to that loss that day because we could easily have been eliminated as a team.
“But the group stayed strong and it was the most brilliant dressing room, the most magical dressing room to have been there three years into that day.
“I will never forget the camaraderie and spirit in the dressing room, but also the demands the players have on each other.
“I feel that the current mood within the Sunderland camp is on the way up, demanding more of each other and overcoming the fear that has reigned at the club in recent years.”
Saturday’s final is Sunderland’s third play-off attempt at League One promotion in four years, having lost 2-1 to Charlton in the 2019 play-off final and falling to Lincoln in the semi-finals last season.
Alex Neil’s side defeated Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 on aggregate to secure a place in the final and Quinn was full of praise for the Black Cats boss who took over in February following the departure of Lee Johnson.
“Some people actually feel like he (Neil) speaks some kind of language that they’ve been waiting to hear for quite a while.” Quin added.
“That in a way it’s simple enough, but actually by applying it and putting it into action, not just talking about it, but showing the benefits of it.
“In those two or three months, I think the players have learned to play his way and adapt to situations in his way.
“His leadership style has effectively impacted them and they have embraced it and it has made them all better off individually.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/niall-quinn-recalls-magical-time-at-sunderland-ahead-of-promotion-play-off-final-41672287.html Niall Quinn recalls ‘magic’ time in Sunderland ahead of promotion play-off final