Niall Quinn has said he will always be grateful to Bill Darby, the former Arsenal scout in Ireland who passed away at the weekend.
In the early 1970s, Darby was the man who famously sent Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton, David O’ Leary, and John Devine to Highbury, and in 1983, it was Quinn’s turn to follow suit.
Recalling the defining moment in a protracted signing saga on FAI.ie, the Association’s Deputy CEO recalled: “Holland came to Dalymount for a European qualifier. (Arsenal manager) Terry Neill and (coach) Don Howe came over to look at Ruud Gullit and Bill brought us to meet them in the Skylon Hotel before the game.
“Terry was a charmer. He persuaded my mum that I could do A-levels at Arsenal and the deal was done. We all went to Dalymount and after the game Bill introduced my parents to John Devine, whom he had also sent to Arsenal, to talk about the move.
“Everything was agreed and that night Arsenal got an Irishman instead of a Dutchman - they had an option on Ruud Gullit as well but his agent wasn’t as persuasive as Bill Darby and they turned Ruud down, even after his two second-half goals helped Holland to a 3-2 win.
“I never really got to know Bill after that. He did send me a letter to look after a young Irish lad who came over on trial after me and I did just that – after that he knew I’d look after anyone he sent our way and we always did.
“I’ll always be grateful to Bill. He saw something in me that very few other people saw and he had faith in me. Without him, who knows what would have happened. My thoughts are with his family now – Bill Darby did so much for me and for so many other Irish players, so much for Arsenal. May he rest in peace.”