Quinn rules out Keane deal

IT would be a transfer to appeal to the romantic in every Irish football fan but Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has ruled out the possibility of a reunion with his old strike partner Robbie Keane at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats had been mentioned as a possible destination for the out-of-favour Tottenham Hotspur player long before Darren Bent’s shock move to Aston Villa this week, but the Sunderland chairman has moved quickly to prevent any such speculation from rising further.

“The problem there is what we are looking for is to help (Asamoah) Gyan and Danny Welbeck along and that means a physical presence,” Quinn told Kildare.tv yesterday. “We just might need to toughen up and find a more physical player.

“Robbie works well off a big physical player but we don’t have that now. Darren is six foot, is good in the air and gets his goals so we will obviously miss that whereas Robbie doesn’t quite suit us now.”

Quinn and Keane played together for Ireland for four years, culminating in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. It was Quinn who set up Keane to claim the famous equaliser against Germany in Ibaraki and it was a foul on the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland man that allowed his strike partner to score another leveller, against Spain, in Suwon.

Quinn’s line of reasoning would land credence to persistent reports yesterday suggesting that John Carew could make the opposite journey to Bent, from Villa Park to the north-east, prior to the transfer window being shut at the end of the month.

Whoever arrives needs to do so quickly. With Welbeck and Frazier Campbell currently injured, Gyan is the only fit senior striker left available to manager Steve Bruce ahead of this Saturday’s Premier League fixture against Ian Holloway’s Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.

Whether it is Carew or someone else — with Cardiff’s Jay Bothroyd also linked — the new signing is likely to be something of a stopgap. Quinn has already admitted it will be next to impossible to sign a player of Bent’s class in the immediate future. The England striker scored 25 times last season and had already claimed a dozen more this season prior to the move to Birmingham which was not the shock to Quinn that it was for almost everybody else.

Unlike Bruce, who expressed his disappointment with Bent yesterday, Quinn was effusive in his praise of Bent’s efforts on and off the park with Sunderland but a visit to team training a few weeks ago left him with the impression that all was not right with the player.

“That’s what transpired. They had been setting him up to try and come. They tempted him and he took the bait.

“It is hugely disappointing for us. All we could do then was battle hard. When the transfer request came in that was the final nail, if you like.

“We could have tried to stop it. We heard he was already down there. It was really difficult so the only job left to us was to get as good a deal as we could for the club and to start finding a replacement, a solution to the problem that he has given us.’’

Bent’s exit is clearly a blow to Sunderland’s ambitions, it represents a good business deal given the fact that they signed Bent from Tottenham in August of 2099 for £10m (€11.8m) and have recouped an initial £18m (€21.3m) on his departure.

Reports have suggested that might climb as far as £24m (€28.4m) in the future but Quinn intimated that the end figure may even go beyond that, all of which may go some way to explaining his lack of animosity towards Bent and the manner of his departure.

“I would never knock him for what has happened, it is just a really tough one for us to accept. It happens with footballers.

“There will be people out there who say you can’t blame him because he got a very big pay rise to go to Aston Villa. I find it difficult because I would be more motivated to try and get the club into Europe first and then say ‘look lads, would it be okay if I went off’ but that is neither here nor there.”

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