28 Nov 2011

A Tragic & Sad Loss For Football

On the 27th of November 2011, a statement from the Football Association of Wales read that their manager Gary Speed had died at the age 42. It was news that shocked the world of football as tributes from players, pundits, and supporters flooded in for a player turned manager who was a well respected figure within the game.

Speed had appeared publicly as a guest on BBC Ones Football Focus only hours before his death, and presenter Dan Walker described Speed being in "fine form". After filming Speed then joined former team-mate Alan Shearer to watch the Manchester United versus Newcastle United.

Speed, was found by his wife, Louise, in the garage of their home in the village of Huntington, near Chester, shortly after 7am on Sunday. Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious. The couple lived in Huntington with their two teenage sons, and Speed was said to have been a devoted family man.

Speed was a gentleman, a success and a popular terrace favourite at the teams he represented at club level. He started his career at Leeds United as a raw 19 year old back in 1988, he was the midfield engine of the team in 1992 that won the Football League First Division championship title. Speed was quick, strong and had a great vision for making passes, he was also versatile and this showed in his early years at Leeds as he was played in nine different outfield positions. He would finally end up playing his best and most effective football on the left side of midfield.

He was clearly a player who wore his heart on his sleeve and was passionate about the beautiful game. In theory he is the complete opposite to the majority of modern day footballers in today's game. By that i mean players who refuse to warm up or take to the field, hold clubs to ransom by demanding pay increases or a transfer, and stagger out of night-clubs at 5am in the morning with a WAG wannabe on each arm. I could not Imagine Speed ticking any of the above boxes, he was a respected role model, a professional and the type of player that youngsters should look up to.

Speed went on to play for Everton, Newcastle,Bolton and Sheffield United. It was at the age of 40 that Speed decided to hang up his boots and admitted that his playing days were over, Sheffield United were soon to offer him his first managerial job after they sacked Kevin Blackwell. Speed jumped at the chance and on the 14th of December 2010, after only just a month in charge at Sheffield he agreed to take the job as Wales manager, with the blessing of his club side.

They say it is only when somebody has gone that you look back and appreciate what they did, and personally I have to agree with that as i started to watch the news and hear the moving and touching tributes flooding in from supporters of the clubs he had represented, and even those he had no connection with. It seems that everybody has only kind words, and a strong respect towards Gary Speed. He was evidently a player who enjoyed his time in the game and always put in a shift on the football field.

We might not ever find out the reason for this sad and tragic death. One thing is for sure, Gary Speed will forever be remembered in the world of football for what he did in a football shirt, by the players who played with him, played against him, and by the supporters who watched him from the terraces. It is just a shame we will now never know if he could have taken Wales to a major tournament as a manager. It would be a fitting tribute to Gary Speed if the current crop of Welsh players could make the next World Cup finals in his memory.