Football world mourns loss of Gary Speed
Soccer:Tributes have poured in for Gary Speed as the football world mourned the death of the popular Wales manager.
Former team-mates, managers and clubs have described Speed as the model professional as they come to terms with his death.
Cheshire Police confirmed he was found dead at his home on the outskirts of Chester, and said there were “no suspicious circumstances”. They confirmed he had taken his own life.
Speed was described as a “star in the true sense” by Howard Wilkinson, under whose management he helped Leeds win the 1992 First Division title.
“The players I worked with represented all colours of the rainbow in terms of character, but in Gary’s case he was a star in the true sense,” said Wilkinson.
“I’ve known Gary since 1988 when I joined Leeds and I’ve rarely come across a better balanced, lovely, genuine person.
“He was a terrific player, not as gifted as some but he made the most of everything he had.”
Robbie Savage, who played alongside Speed for Wales for nine years, broke down in tears as he reflected on the loss of his friend.
“I spoke to him yesterday morning. We were laughing and joking. He was in high spirits. I can’t believe it,” said Savage.
“He came to Strictly Come Dancing (where Savage is a contestant) three or four weeks ago and he and his wife sat with us.
“After my routine I high-fived him and we had a drink in the bar afterwards. He was larger than life. He is my mate and he’s gone. I’d grown very close to him in the last few years.
“He’s left two gorgeous kids behind and a beautiful wife. He had everything.”
Savage was one of many former team-mates to honour the memory of the 42-year-old, who was highly respected as a player and had made a promising start to life as a manager.
Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs, who played alongside Speed for 13 years with Wales, admitted his disbelief at the news.
“I am totally devastated. Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend,” he said. “Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news.”
Dean Saunders recalled Speed’s dedication and professionalism.
“He was so fit — he was one of those players who would stay behind all day in training. I can’t believe what’s happened,” said Saunders.
Alan Shearer, who spent six years with Speed at Newcastle, is grieving over the loss of a bright personality whose company everyone enjoyed.
“Gary was a magnificent person, bright, fun and a wonderful family man — he lit up every room he walked into,” he said. “I am proud to have been his friend and will miss him dreadfully.”
Rob Lee, who played alongside Speed at Newcastle, remembered a man who was as influential off the pitch as he was on it.
“He was always great to be around, the life and soul of the party, and a good friend,” he said.
England and Manchester United striker Michael Owen saw Speed only last week as the two lived close to each other.
“Just cannot believe the news regarding Gary Speed,” he wrote on Twitter. “We waved at each other a couple of days ago dropping our kids off at school. I’m numb.
“He has died aged 42. So sad. He lived local to me and we knew his family. He leaves behind two sons. Tragic.”
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who was appointed Wales captain by Speed earlier this year, also used Twitter to voice his shock.
“I was given the tragic news this morning. To say I am devastated is an understatement,” he wrote.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Gary’s family and friends. Today the world has lost a great football manager but even more sadly a great man. He will be missed by all.”
Speed’s former clubs — Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United — spoke warmly of Speed as they gave their reaction to the news.
Leeds manager Simon Grayson, who was an apprentice with Speed at Elland Road, shared a long history with a man he held in high regard.
“Speedo was a true friend and a very, very popular man,” he told the club website.
“Our sympathies are with Louise, his children, his dad, and all his family. We signed on the same day and played in the youth and reserve teams together.
“We also did all our coaching badges together. He was a good friend and this is a very sad day.”
Bobby Gould, who worked with Speed during his reign as Wales coach between 1995 and 1999, paid tribute to a talented footballer.
“He was a great pro,” said Gould. “He would play anywhere for you — left back, left wing, centre of midfield, wide left. It’s such a tragedy.
“People are just stunned. I saw (former Wales striker) John Hartson earlier and I said ‘have you heard about Gary?’ The big man just cried and cried. We cuddled each other.
“He’s gone home (from the Liberty Stadium). That is his respect towards Gary to say ‘I can’t work this afternoon’. Speedo was his pal. They were buddies. Gary was the ultimate professional.”