Flags lowered as football mourns Gary Speed
The flags at Leeds’ Elland Road Stadium were lowered Sunday in
honor of one of the key players from the club’s last title-winning
Elsewhere, one Premier League crowd honored Gary Speed with a
minute’s silence and another opted for an impromptu minute’s
applause following the news that a man renowned for his longevity
as a player – and burgeoning promise as a manager – had died aged
The youngest member of Leeds’ 1991-92 title-winning midfield and
the first player to reach 500 Premier League appearances, Speed was
renowned as a dedicated professional and had just coached his
native Wales to three straight wins.
Friends and colleagues practically lined up to pay tribute to
Speed, who was found dead at his home Sunday.
”He lived his life the way he played football, without
blemish,” said Joe Royle, who signed him for Everton in 1996. ”He
was a good guy. I’ve never ever heard anyone say a bad word or make
a snide remark about him. It was just ‘Speedo is terrific.’
”I rated him so highly as a man and as a person.”
A minute’s silence was observed before the Premier League match
between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield. But when they
were asked to observe a minute’s silence, the fans at the game
between Welsh side Swansea and Aston Villa instead broke into
spontaneous sustained applause and chanted ”There’s Only One Gary
Villa goalkeeper Shay Given was in tears thinking of his former
Newcastle teammate, while Wales striker Craig Bellamy was so upset
he was left out of Liverpool’s squad entirely.
Wales internationals Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor, Joe Allen and
James Collins started for either Villa or Swansea, with emotions
running so high that Villa manager Alex McLeish said he would not
have protested if the game had been called off.
Wales midfielder Joe Ledley wrote on Twitter: ”So saddened by
the loss of a great guy, manager & footballer. It was a
pleasure to work under him. My thoughts are with his family.”
With Speed having played 85 times for Wales – a tally beaten
only by goalkeeper Neville Southall – and racking up 535 Premier
League appearances, a recurring theme of the tributes paid was his
dedication. Speed maintained his body in peak condition even past
the age when most of his peers had dropped down the divisions or
Speed’s Premier League appearance record has since been
overtaken by goalkeeper David James and Manchester United stalwart
Ryan Giggs, who played alongside Speed for Wales.
”I am totally devastated,” Giggs said. ”Gary Speed was one of
the nicest men in football and someone I am honored to call a
teammate and friend. Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel
at hearing this awful news. It goes without saying my thoughts are
with his family at this tremendously sad time.”
Former Wales striker Dean Saunders, who shared a room with Speed
when the pair were called up for internationals, said Speed would
do sit-ups and press-ups before going to bed every night. Another
Wales teammate, Mark Bowen, said Speed was one of the first players
in British football to properly tailor his diet to maximize his
Former England midfielder Royle said that helped persuade him to
sign Speed at Everton, the club Speed had supported as a boy.
”He always came in looking a million dollars and there was
never any indication that he wasn’t ready to train,” Royle said.
”He played with a smile on his face and he was one of the best
players I was fortunate enough to manage and handle and I still
can’t believe it.
”He was part of the North Wales-Everton supporters band and
from the minute he came he was perfect for the club.”
Current Everton players weighed in with their tributes on
Australia forward Tim Cahill: ”Gary Speed was the ultimate pro
on and off the pitch. So sad to lose someone so special to
football, friends, fans, family. Rest in Peace mate.”
Everton captain Phil Neville: ”Horrific news about Gary Speed,
my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Simon Grayson signed for Leeds on the same day as Speed and is
now manager of the northern England club. Grayson had been friends
with Speed, who played alongside Gordon Strachan, David Batty, and
Gary McAllister in Leeds’ title-winning side, for 25 years.
”Speedo was a true friend and a very, very popular man,”
Grayson said. ”We signed on the same day and played in the youth
and reserve teams together. We also did all our coaching badges
together. He was a good friend and this is a very sad day.”
Newcastle assistant coach John Carver worked with Speed during
Bobby Robson’s stint in charge of the club.
”Gary was as perfect a professional as you could ever wish to
work with: 100 percent committed, dedicated to his profession and,
above all, a wonderful colleague and friend,” Carver said. ”I
worked with him at Sheffield United too and of course was delighted
to see the fantastic job he was doing with Wales.
”Gary was an exceptional person and a very dear friend.
Football has lost a truly great man.”
Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso played against Speed during
his time with Liverpool in England’s Premier League and remembered
his opponent fondly.
”RIP Gary Speed. My first PL game was against him, he showed me
in that game what is British football about,” Alonso wrote on