Monday, 28 November 2011

There's Only One Gary Speed

Sunday 27th November, a sad and horrific day for the world of football. Gary Andrew Speed, 42, died in his home in Huntington, Cheshire.

As soon as the news of his untimely death spread throughout the country; fans, players, newsrooms and even the general public grinded to a halt in pure shock that the former Welsh captain had died.

Hours later, rumours had surfaced within the media that Mr Speed; a former midfielder for Leeds United, Everton, Bolton Wanders, Newcastle and Sheffield United, had took his own life. Sunday's Premier League encounters between Swansea and Aston Villa, and Liverpool and Manchester City were overshadowed by the news of the veterans demise. Craig Bellamy was forced out of the Liverpool squad to deal with the loss, and Villa 'keeper Shay Given was visually overwhelmed by the news, as the former team mate of 'Speedo' shed a tear before his performance against Swansea. 

A mixture of grief, anguish and confusion was amongst the thoughts of thousands of fans across the UK prompting the question; why?

Gary Speed was born on the 8th September 1969 in Mancot in North Wales. Supporting Everton as a child, Speed began his professional career at Leeds United in 1988 where he signed his first professional contract. Scoring 39 goals in 248 appearances in eight years, Speed moved to his beloved Everton in 1996 for a fee of £3.5 million.

 Lasting two years at Goodison Park and scoring only 15 goals in 58 appearances, he moved 174 miles north towards Newcastle where he was an influential part of Sir Bobby Robson's 'top four' side. 

In 2004, Speed moved back to Lancashire where he joined Bolton Wanders on a two year deal worth £750,000. Having made 121 appearances for the Trotters, he became the first Premier League player to reach 500 appearances. Four years later, he joined Sheffield United, a club that would end up being his last. 

Retiring in 2010 at the age of 49, Speed carried on at Sheffield United, undertaking a coaching role. At the start of the 2010/11, Kevin Blackwell was controversially sacked three games into the season. However Blackwell's departure opened the door to Gary taking over of Sheffield United boss, his first taste of a managerial role in a new chapter of Speed's career.

Having being linked with the vacant managers role for the Wales international team since John Toshack stepped down from his position, Speed became the new manager of Wales on the 14th December 2010. Bringing a new flare to a Wales side that has played under par for several years under previous management, three consecutive victories and a string of quality performances towards the end of the qualifiers  for the 2012 European Championships caught the eye of the footballing world. Wales looking clinical, it looked like a cracking bet that the Welsh might make the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

His final appearance being on Football Focus, a day before his untimely death, Speed looked like he didn't have a care in the world whilst he talked about Manchester United youngster Phil Jones and Charlton Athletic manager Chris Powell. However not only a couple of hours later, Speed took his life. 

A massive loss not only to British football, but to world football. Footballers from across the globe took to their Twitter accounts to pay their thoughts and respect for the proud Welshman. Galactico Xabi Alonso said, "RIP Gary Speed. My first PL game game was against him, he showed me in that game what British football is about."

Presenter of Football Focus Dan Walker was with Speed the day before he died. He tweeted: "Staggered by the news of Gary Speed's death. Was with him for much of yesterday. I genuinely cannot believe it. Thoughts with his family."
Manchester United striker Michael Owen said: "Just cannot believe the news regarding Gary Speed. We waved at each other a couple of days ago dropping our kids off at school. I'm numb."
Young Gunner Jack Wilshere tweeted: "Wow shocked at the news about Gary Speed! thoughts are with his family! RIP"
Tributes to the Welsh legend looks set to start at Cardiff City Stadium; where Cardiff face Blackburn Rovers in the last eight of the Carling Cup. The tributes will lead on into the weekend where every Premier and Football League team are expected to pay their condolences before kick-off. 
Farewell Gary Speed. A footballing hero on and off the pitch, you will be sorely missed.

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