Football in shock at Speed’s apparent suicide
Gary Speed was smiling and relaxed as he spoke on national
television about the day’s upcoming football matches. A few hours
later, he was found dead at his home in an apparent suicide.
The sudden death of the Wales manager and former Premier League
star – who was only 42 – shocked not only the British football
world but also touched many people outside the sport.
Why Speed would take his own life remained unclear Monday.
Several friends speculated that he could have been depressed.
Unsubstantiated rumors circulated online that Speed was the subject
of an upcoming tabloid newspaper story about his personal life.
Many were too stunned at the death of a seemingly happy man to
demand answers just yet.
The first man to play 500 games in the English Premier League
and the youngest member of the midfield that carried Leeds to its
most recent league title in 1992, Speed had overhauled Wales’
ailing national team and coached a young squad to four wins in its
last five matches.
”Twenty minutes before we went on air on Saturday, he was the
normal Gary Speed to me,” said Gary McAllister, a former teammate
who also appeared on the BBC program ”Football Focus.” ”He was
very excited about the prospects of the Welsh national team and was
upbeat, looking class, immaculately presented. He was a movie star
in my eyes.
”There were no signs, nothing to suggest he was troubled. He
looked well and things are going well for him at the moment. I
could never have thought that 10-12 hours after I saw him I’d be
getting that news. It’s a nightmare.”
Citing anonymous police sources, British media widely reported
that Speed was found hanged Sunday morning in the garage of his
home in Huntington, England, where he lived with his wife Louise
and two sons.
While officials scheduled an inquest into Speed’s death on
Tuesday, police said there were no suspicious circumstances – a
statement commonly made in instances of suicide.
Speed’s agent, Hayden Evans, issued a statement outside the
family house on Monday.
”We would ask that the family are now given the respect of some
privacy to just grieve on their own,” he said.
Fans left shirts and homemade banners adorned with Speed’s name
outside the stadiums of each of his five former clubs, while
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he watched highlights of
those same matches Speed had talked about on TV.
”I think it has been incredibly moving,” Cameron said. ”I was
watching Match Of The Day last night and watching people, crowds,
absolutely silent and footballers revering his memory.
”I know he meant an enormous amount to people and people feel
very, very sad on his behalf and on his family’s behalf.”
Former teammates, coaches and colleagues spoke at length about a
man they knew as a dedicated player, a kind and considerate friend
and an immensely promising coach.
”People have problems in football and you have an indication
that you need to keep an eye on someone, but this was right out of
the blue,” fellow Leeds midfielder Gordon Strachan said. ”It’s
hard for us as friends to understand.”
Even those who played against him remembered him fondly.
”He was an amazing, talented player, a player that had such a
glittering career and just began a great career in management as
well,” former England captain David Beckham said. ”It is a sad
time to lose a man like this.”
Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford said
he had no idea why Speed had taken his life.
”I don’t know if we ever will know,” Ford said. ”I am no
further forward in my thoughts, when you hear the news you ask
yourself why? But maybe will never know.”
British tabloids The Sun and The Daily Star both used their
official Twitter accounts to deny rumors that they had been
preparing to publish revelations about Speed’s private life.
”No truth in this story. The Sun was not investigating Gary
Speed in any way,” The Sun tweeted.
Depression has been suggested as a possible reason. Speed died
just a day after former Aston Villa and Liverpool striker Stan
Collymore wrote about the illness from which he has suffered over
”Suicidal thoughts. Thankfully I’ve not got to that part yet
and in my last 10 years only once or twice has this practical
reality entered my head,” Collymore wrote on Twitter. ”It takes a
massive leap of faith to know that this time next week life could
be running again, smiling, my world big and my brain back as it
”So what do some do? They don’t take the leap of faith, they
address a practical problem with a practical solution to them and
that is taking their own life. And sadly too many take that route
out of this hell.”
Suffering from depression, Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke ended
his life two years ago by stepping in front of a train. A referee
in Germany attempted suicide last weekend hours before a Bundesliga
English football’s most infamous suicide was that of Justin
Fashanu. The first black footballer to move in a 1 million-pound
transfer when he joined Nottingham Forest in 1981, Fashanu’s career
faded after he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality and he was
found hanged in a London garage in 1998 at age 37.
”You would never hear a player confessing to his teammates that
he had a problem and needed help,” former Liverpool defender Alan
Hansen wrote in his column for The Telegraph newspaper. ”I spent
14 years in the Liverpool dressing room and I can’t recall that
happening. It’s probably a man thing too, but a dressing room is
supposed to be an upbeat place and it is not the environment for
any show of perceived weakness.
”We don’t know the circumstances that led to Gary’s death, but
as a former player, he will have been brought up in that same
dressing room environment.”
FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote to the FAW to express his
”Gary Speed was a hugely talented player and a great servant
for both club and country who will be greatly missed,” Blatter
said. ”He will always be remembered as a model professional and a
fantastic ambassador for the game. It was clear to all there that
he was a man who exuded enthusiasm and passion for the game.”