On Sunday morning, football fans worldwide woke up to the tragic news of Gary Speed’s death and people everywhere went numb. All became irrelevant and the importance of the day’s sporting fixtures quickly faded into the background.
His contribution to both national and international football will never be forgotten…
Gary Speed was a man of humility, dignity and great sporting talent. His contribution to both national and international football will never be forgotten. The captain at every club he played for, a championship winner with Leeds and the first player to reach 500 Premier lLeague appearances, Speedo really was a footballing legend. To have to use his name in the past tense is confusing, distressing and heartbreaking.
His international career as both a player and manager was highly distinguished. He earnt 85 caps for his country, scored 7 goals and remains the most capped outfield player of all time. However, it was the prospect of his blossoming managerial career which excited the Celtic nation. Being Welsh, I was eagerly awaiting the next few seasons, the World Cup qualifiers and the prospect of Wales finally fulfilling their potential. Gary Speed was a unifier. For the younger players he was the ultimate role model and for the likes of Craig Bellamy, he was a great friend. Young and old alike wanted to be part of this special man’s reign. It hurts to think about what we have lost. It is not only a loss to the Red Dragons, but to the world as a whole.
…his approachability, his kindness and the real interest he took in the fans of the game…
Gary Speed was a gentleman both on and off the pitch. The tributes pouring in from all over the football community and even beyond show you just how many people he touched. Individual stories have emerged of his approachability, his kindness and the real interest he took in the fans of the game. There are few footballers who can connect with the fans in the same way Speed did. He never let his skill detract from the fact that people were more important than the football.
Today I have found it hard to listen to the Welsh National Anthem without welling up. There is a line in this song which appears to have been written for the great man: Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd – the land whose warriors were true to the core.
Gary Speed, a footballing champion, whose radiant personality transcended the boundaries of the game. He has gone, but in his wake, he has left a legacy that will never be forgotten. A legacy that modern day footballers would do well to take heed of.
Image courtesy of Gary Speed