Football World in Shock and Grief following tragic death of Gary Speed

Daniel Jackson

‘The world has lost a great man in Gary Speed. I’m devastated spoke to him yesterday morning Why! Why! Why!! I’ll miss him so much x’

Above is a tweet from Robbie Savage, a man who knew Gary Speed better than most. It shows just a fraction of how much the sudden death of Wales manager Gary Speed has hit all of those who knew, loved, and respected the 42-year-old.

It comes as absolutely no surprise to see the tributes pouring in by the minute from those who knew him in a professional sense, those who played with him, those who worked with him, as well as those who grew up watching the midfield maestro.

When things like this happen, it goes to show just how irrelevant football is in comparison to people. Speed was a man with the world at his feet, he was leading Wales into a new age after being named manager in December 2010. He had given Wales a new lease of life and had the Welsh supporters excited again after having won 5 of his first 10 games in charge.

He had a young family, two sons and his wife who Robbie Savage described as ‘beautiful’. It seemed that Speed had it all going for him. So this news has left everyone as confused as it has devastated. His death – confirmed by Cheshire Police – as ‘apparent suicide by hanging’ shows just how little part football can play, as was the case with Germany and Hannover goalkeeper Robert Enke in 2009. It’s a travesty that no one knows just exactly how Speed was feeling, and that no one could have prevented this devastating event from occurring.

This is not, however, an inquest; this is a tribute to a man who made over 500 Premier League appearances. Played for teams such as Leeds United (with whom he won the final First Division title before it became the Premier League), Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United. This is a tribute to a man who is regarded as highly as a man as he was a footballer.

Tweets, messages and statements from people all over the world have flown in following the news of his death, and it goes to show just how highly people thought of him, and just how hard his death has hit people.

Robbie Savage broke down in tears when being interviewed by BBC News and Aston Villa’s Shay Given (former team-mate of Speed’s at Newcastle) couldn’t hide his emotions when the news was revealed or during the minutes silence, that broke into a much more commendable minutes applause before Villa’s game at Swansea just hours after the news was confirmed.

These are just a couple of examples of how much Gary Speed was loved as a person. Tweets from all over the world have come in from Players, celebrities and general football fans alike, stating their admiration and respect for a man described by Newcastle United as ‘the ultimate role model, and an exceptional role model for younger players’.

After a glittering player career was over, he started his venture into management by first being a coach at Sheffield United (where he ended his playing career), before then becoming manager when Howard Wilkinson left the club in 2010. Despite only winning 6 out of 18 matches whilst at Bramall Lane, he was given the opportunity to manage Wales as a successor to John Toshack. It was as boss of Wales when we started to catch glimpses as to just how successful a manager he could be. After overseeing a fantastic end to what had been a rather disappointing qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championships, there was genuine hope that Speed could have been the man to take Wales to their first major championships since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Unfortunately now, we will not get to see how far Gary could have taken the national side.

Welsh football captain Aaron Ramsey – whom Speed appointed captain – was one of those leading the tributes to his national boss when he tweeted: “I was given the tragic news this morning. To say I am devastated is an understatement. 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.” Similar tributes from other Welsh internationals such as Robert Earnshaw, Joe Ledley and Simon Church have also come in, but perhaps the most heartfelt was from Chris Gunter who labeled Speed ‘a role model and an inspiration’ and ended his tweet with ‘rip gaffer’.

But the most sympathy is towards his loved ones. His wife, Louise and two sons, Tommy and Ed. Nobody could begin to imagine how they feel, and no words can ever heal the pain they are suffering right now. But they can be safe in the knowledge that their husband and father was a respected, idolised, loved and truly wonderful man. Football has always been a sport based on unity, and right now the football world is unified behind Speed family.

R.I.P Gary Speed (8th September 1969 – 27th November 2011)

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