Mansfield Town veteran star Stephen Quinn desperate to savour promotion taste once more
Despite winning promotion to the Premier League and twice enjoying successful spells in the top flight, former Irish international star Stephen Quinn insists a promotion with Mansfield Town this season would mean at least as much to him if not more.
At 35, now in the twilight of his glittering career, Quinn is as hungry as ever to succeed and would love another promotion this May.
“It's all as relevant as those times, there is still the same pressures in getting promotion,” he said.
“It's still the same end goal. This would be an awesome feat if we could do it this year.
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“Those were great times but for me this would be just as, if not even more, important.
“I thought I was finishing the game a few years ago due to injury.
“But, bouncing back, and to come to play for a club like Mansfield, who are forward-thinking and building something quite unique, to be involved in it and play with some of the players and the quality we have in the squad is exciting for me.
“It is different, but it's as special as playing for Ireland or the bigger clubs or going for promotion to the Premier League or FA Cup finals.
“This is relevant to the Mansfield Town fans and everyone in the club. It's the same level for me and I'm just very excited to be a part of it.”
Stags have gone on an amazing run of success, but that came after a 14-game stretch without victory which he believes has spurred them on to the greater heights they have hit.
“It was a bit different at the start of the season when we had the bad patch,” he said.
“But we came through that and to see the camaraderie and mental strength of some of these boys in this changing room – the additions have helped – it's been quite a turnaround.
“You can definitely see comparisons with some of the successful squads I've played in.
“It's the togetherness and never-say-die attitude, but also the quality more than anything. There is some great quality in this squad.
“We're looking strong and it's getting stronger, and I think we will look back to that bad run as a spur and also a warning that things can go wrong and not to take anything for granted going forward.
“We don't want that to happen again. It's important it happened in the early part of the season so we can look at it and get ahead of ourselves.
“We have turned it round unbelievably well and this is where we wanted to be at the start of the season.
“From now on we just have to finish the job.
“There are lots of games coming up and this is where the buzz starts as you know it's getting closer. We will get more out of ourselves knowing there is a goal right at the end of it.”
One of nine Dublin brothers Quinn started out in the youth set-up at League of Ireland St Patrick's Athletic.
“I had some good times at Pats,” he said. “I was obviously only a young lad learning my trade.
“But I will be forever grateful to them as they are my local League of Ireland team and I supported them growing up.
“I played the one game for St Pats, the manager was Eamonn Collins.
“Not very long after I had some trials at Sheffield United and they signed me up.”
It was there he earned a nickname.
“My brother, Alan, also joined that summer and when I started breaking into the same first team I was named 'Mini Quinny' from the off,” he smiled.
He made over 200 league appearances for the Blades and had early loan spells at Rotherham United – a relegation fight - and MK Dons while the Blades were getting promotion to the Premier League.
By the time he returned to Bramall Lane he was a top flight player.
“It was great for me at Rotherham,” he said. “I needed to go out and play league football down the lower leagues.
“It was a big eye-opener for me as Rotherham at the time were not doing so well financially and some of their players weren't being paid.
“It was a difficult time for the club and Neil Warnock let a couple of us go out on loan to help the cause.
“In the end we stayed up in League One. Alan Knill was the manager at the time and it was a really good three months for the club staying up and for myself to start my professional career.”
In 2012 Quinn was sold to Championship Hull City, helping them to promotion and an FA Cup final too – a spell that also saw him progress from the Irish U21s to the full national team.
“My best moment for Ireland was my debut,” he said.
“It's just pulling on that green jersey. It was the one thing I'd always ever dreamed of, playing for my country, and that was the pinnacle of my career.
“It was a special moment for myself and my family.”
A spell at Reading followed before he joined Nigel Clough at Burton Albion and then linked up with him again at Mansfield.
“The first time I worked with him was at Burton Albion and we had a successful period there,” he said.
“This club is ready for the steps above and the manager has been brilliant. He just simplifies the game and wants to play my type of football.
“I know all the lads are really enjoying it as well. He is a great man-manager and it's been great to be working alongside him again.”
Quinn had high praise for the Stags fans playing their part in lifting the team.
“The fans are absolutely outstanding at the minute to be honest,” he said.
“In October time when we were as low as a snake's belly really, we just couldn't get a result even though we were playing quite well. But we stuck at it to see if we could get fans' bums onto seats and literally a few months later we hit a groove.
“We've come together as a squad and there is a great unity between the fans and the players and it's special at the moment, home and away. The atmosphere they are generating is something quite special.”
After a summer of high optimism, Quinn said no one expected the 14-game winless run.
“Going into the start of the season and even into the first couple of games we were strong and looking good,” he said.
“The unity around the place has never been broken. But it was just we couldn't find a way of winning games and keeping the same people on the pitch and keeping players fit.
“Obviously my discipline let us down also in that period also (he was suspended for six games).
“There is an element of doubt in the back of your mind when that sort of thing happens, but your character then shines through and you dig deep. “That's exactly what we did. We kept pressing forward and believed and that's the most important thing.
“Looking forward we've got to realise that those things can happen so we have to stay on our toes and try to make sure that doesn't happen again.”
Saturday's opponents and promotion rivals Newport County have had a mini blip with only one point from the last nine.
“We recognise the period they are going through as we've been there ourselves. So we have to be fully on our guard and fully focussed,” said Quinn.
“We went to Harrogate and they were in a similar situation. They went back to basics and were tough to beat.
“It's the business end of the season now and every game we go into is going to be difficult as teams are playing for different things at the moment.
“It was a good point in the end last weekend at Bristol Rovers as these are difficult places to go to. Obviously we weren't at our best but on another day we could have lost the game.
“It will be a different kind of game on Saturday but we'll stick to what we've been doing. We look to attack every team we play as we want to win.”
Despite his advancing years, Quinn feels as fit as a fiddle.
“I feel great, honestly,” he said. “It's been great to be a part of this side.
“I know a lot of the young lads in the team and they are keeping me young. The spirit is up and it's great to be around.
“They me feel young again. I feel physically very well and I just want to push for one thing now this season and that's promotion.”
Quinn likes to provide some Irish 'craic' when he can, but knows when to be deadly serious.
“The camaraderie between the lads has been great and there is an earthiness about the lads,” he said. “There are no egos around the place which I love.
“I love to have a bit of craic and a laugh at the right times, but I don't take my eye off the end goal. When the serious business starts it's heads down.
“You do need to have a bit of craic about the place and that's what I like to do. But you have to be ready to go and turn up when the whistle blows on a Saturday or Tuesday.
“We are more than ready. We have the squad now available so let's see what it brings.
“We know our goal and our aim and we're not going to stop until we get it.”