The Welsh nation stood alongside Gary Speed’s family, friends and former colleagues last night to play tribute to their national hero who tragically died last November.
More than 20,000 fans packed into the Cardiff City Stadium on an emotional night in international football. Despite the final result, the fans determination to make this a special evening for Gary’s family and all who attended the game was evident to all. Stand-in skipper Craig Bellamy was accompanied by Aaron Ramsey and Speed’s two boys in leading out the team to a deafening applause. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh National Anthem brought many to tears and the fans eagerness to applaud Gary Speed’s life lead to a period of clapping lasting well over 3 minutes.
The performance of the players on the pitch was naturally subdued but their stoicism and bravery in coping with the mental and physical stress was thoroughly appreciated by their supporters, former players watching from the sidelines and most importantly, Gary’s family.
In terms of the actual football played, Wales gave away a sloppy goal in the 7th minute. Arsenal’s on-loan striker Joel Campbell put away a tidy finish as the crowd deafened his celebrations with cries of ‘Wales, Wales.’ The boys in red dominated much of the game with their best chance coming from a header by Steve Morrison which clipped the underside of the bar. But the day was not about the football. A post-match speech by Gary’s 14 year old son summed up the night, he said ‘My dad always said to me if you do your best you’ve done enough.’ The players, despite losing 1-0 to a pacey Costa Rican side, certainly honoured these words and gave their all for their former manager.
…a night to make a final salute…
Chris Coleman’s first defeat as Wales Manager should not be given too much weight, by his own admission ‘he was not ready for the night.’ It was not the occasion to begin talking about new starts, fresh tactics and qualification for major tournaments, but a night to make a final salute to a great Welsh hero.
As the Welsh nation put on their yellow daffodils today to commemorate St.David’s Day, talk can now turn to reigniting the hope and expectation which Gary Speed brought to the side, preferably before the team take on Mexico in May. With a Spring feeling in the air, football can begin to move forward after this traumatic ordeal. Gary Speed will never be forgotten and will remain in the hearts of the players and fans worldwide.