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Friday, 26 December 2014

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Sunderland thought we were 'fabulous' - Barrow AFC Chairman Brian Keen

BARROW AFC could be in line to enjoy a top flight partnership following their memorable day at Premier League Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Chairman Brian Keen spent the afternoon in the stadium’s executive box with host chairman and former Sunderland forward, Niall Quinn, who pledged to support AFC in any way he can.

Mr Keen said Mr Quinn was full of praise for Barrow’s brave effort and the way the club’s staff, players and fans conducted themselves throughout the FA Cup Third Round clash, which Barrow lost 3-0, despite being on top for much of the first half.

Mr Keen said: “We sat with Niall Quinn and all his board and quite frankly they couldn’t have been more complimentary about the way the team played and our club in general.

“They were quite open and honest in saying that they felt a couple of decisions early on went against us and that had a bearing on the direction of the game.

“Niall Quinn said if he was chairman of our club he would be ever so proud of the team, and he was very sincere about that. Talking to all concerned with Sunderland on Saturday, they just thought we had been fabulous.”

The two chairmen also struck up a strong bond and Mr Keen is confident the newly-formed links with the Premier League giants will help Barrow in the future.

He said: “Niall gave me his card. He likes the Barrow set-up, the family aspect to the club. He said: ‘Anything I can do to help Barrow, I will do it.

“Pre-season and the potential for a friendly match was mentioned, which would mean a lot of money, and he told me he would stay close.

“I have invited him to the Lakes and I feel I’ve made a nice relationship. It was just a real football, man-to-man discussion on the structure of football.

“Niall wants to help. He’s a marvellous man. He could not have made it a better day. We had a great day and we’ve made some great friends in Sunderland.”

Barrow’s cup heroics and huge travelling support of 7,500 fans attracted a lot of national media coverage. Forest Green aside, the Bluebirds were the lowest placed team in the Third Round.

Mr Keen said: “I can’t believe the front page headline we got in my Sunday Mail. We really have done ourselves proud. We hit the headlines and so did our fans.

“And for non-league football, they are saying ‘that’s what the FA Cup is all about’. “I think Sunderland’s attitude is a positive message to some of the prima donna clubs to get involved with the lower leagues to give them a chance to make a few bob and build a platform.

“That’s exactly what Niall Quinn is all about and it’s lovely to see.”

Mr Keen paid tribute to the fans and the players, but stressed that attention must now turn to league matters.

He said: “At the end of the day, we want to be back in the Football League, and that’s my ambition.

“It won’t happen over night, we’ve got to tippy-toe, but we will back (co-managers) Darren (Sheridan) and David (Bayliss) all the way.

“The fans had a fantastic time from what I could tell. We’re in this together and I look forward to hearing their comments and all about the day they had.”

On the estimated £200,000 Barrow stand to earn from their cup journey, Mr Keen said: “I think we will hold onto it.

“We have to be very careful, take advice from the banks and spend where necessary. We have got to be shrewd and bright. We don’t want to throw it away – that has happened in the past, but I won’t allow it to.

“I want the club to go from strength to strength. But I’m afraid that in football today, strength is money.”

Mr Keen was joined on Saturday by family from around the world.

Summing up the day and his family roots on Wearside, he said: “At one point I looked out the window with Niall Quinn and said to him, ‘That’s where my dad met my mother out there, on the River Wear’. Niall was chuffed to bits.”

  • Six Barrow AFC fans were arrested on Saturday. One for racial abuse, three for drunkenness and two for Section Five Public Order offences

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