Gary Speed: A Welsh Great
Yesterday morning (Sunday 27th November 2011) the Wales football manager Gary Speed was found dead at his home in Huntington, Chester.
Tributes have been flooding in for a “magnificent person”.
It has been reported that Speed, the national manager for nearly a year, was found hanged and that there are no suspicious circumstances.
Within moments of the news, tributes were issued by shocked friends, colleagues and members of the world of sport and beyond. Former Wales team mate Ryan Giggs said: "I am totally devastated. Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a teammate and friend. It goes without saying my thoughts are with his family at this tremendously sad time."
First Minister Carwyn Jones said he was deeply saddened, "This is devastating news and our thoughts are with his family at what must be a very difficult time for them."
Having come through the training ranks at Leeds United, Speed was part of the side that won the last Football League title in 1992 and during his career won 85 international caps for Wales - a record for an outfield player. Having played for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers, Speed became the first player to reach 500 Premier League appearances and by the time he retired from international duty in 2004, had captained Wales 44 times. Last year, he was given the top job in Welsh football despite only having four months managerial experience - confirming the respect he had gained in the football world and his reputation as a consummate professional and excellent role model.
Fellow former Wales team mate, Robbie Savage, tweeted: "The world has lost a great man in Gary Speed, I'm devastated. I'll miss him so much.” “He loved life, he loved his family!” “Why!” Alan Shearer, who played alongside Speed for six years at Newcastle said: "Gary was a magnificent person, bright, fun and a wonderful family man - he lit up every room he walked into. I am proud to have been his friend and will miss him dreadfully."
Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan tweeted: "This is a sad day for football and for everyone in Wales. Gary Speed served club and country as a player and manager with great distinction." Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones added: "The whole nation is in shock - he will never be forgotten.”
At the Liberty Stadium in Swansea - where the home side were playing Aston Villa - a minute's silence was followed by a minute's applause and already, scarves and flowers have been laid near Leeds’ home ground, something likely to be repeated elsewhere as the nation comes to terms with the loss.
The Football Association of Wales said: "That this tragedy should have overtaken someone so young and talented is a huge loss not only for his family and friends but a nation as a whole." Phil Pritchard, FAW president, added they would do "whatever we can" to help Speed's family.
On a personal note, I remember meeting Gary Speed when I was ten-years-old and vividly recall his soft and friendly nature and brilliant smile. Just yesterday, I watched him on Football Focus as he spoke of his future as Welsh manager and he seemed in good spirits. He will be sadly missed as a talented manager and constant gentleman on and off the field in a sport with a lack of genuine role models.
Speed, who was awarded an MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours, leaves a wife and two children. He was 42.