The shocking news of Gary Speed’s untimely death has overshadowed any talk of the weekend football action as the world of soccer is united in mourning. Speed, who had made 131 appearances for Everton, and many more for Leeds and the Welsh national side was found dead in his home Sunday morning. Shocking reports have claimed it was suicide.
Speed won the final First Division title before the Premiership came into existence in 1991-92, and was known for his sunny demeanor and ability with building the confidence of younger players. Speed’s former teammates Alan Shearer, Ryan Giggs, and Robbie Savage are said to devastated along with all the members of the Welsh national side. Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale have even been released from duty by their managers and are now in seclusion. These men who, like me, had listened to him on the radio Saturday, chatting to Gary McAllister on Football Focus, seemingly happy enough with life, work and the world.
The news of his death broke as Aston Villa were about to take the field against Swansea City and a minutes silence was held before the match to mourn the tragic loss of one of Wales greatest players. Questions had been raised as to whether the game would go ahead, and although McLeish said Villa would have had no complaints if the game had been postponed, Swansea felt that they wanted to send out a different message. “It was just so close to the kick?off that we decided that we would want to play the game as a mark of respect for a great man of football, because that’s what he was,” said Swansea manager, Brendan Rogers.
However, for some of those closest to Speed, the news was too much to bear. John Hartson, a former teammate of Speed’s, who had been due to cover the match for the BBC, is said to have left the stadium in tears before kick-off. Kevin Ratcliffe, who played alongside Speed for his country and was born in the same north Wales village, looked numb, while Bobby Gould, who appointed Speed as the Wales captain seemed close to tears as he spoke about “a great person, a great skipper and a great lad”. Truly, the whole world of football is diminished by his loss.
For now, our thoughts remain with Gary’s wife, two young children whom this loss will hit hardest, and we send our sincerest condolences.
Written by: Matthew Wall, editor, soccerprose.com
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