Speed tributes overwhelm family

Speed’s agent Hayden Evans – who was also the best man at Speed’s

wedding – on Monday afternoon spoke outside the family home in

Cheshire, where his body was found on Sunday morning. Sources

confirmed the 42-year-old Speed was found hanged. Tributes have

poured in for the former Wales, Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton

and Sheffield United midfielder from across the sporting and

political world, and Evans said: “Gary’s family would sincerely

like to thank all the people that have sent messages of condolence

and tributes in what is a very difficult time. “We have been

overwhelmed by the support and it really has helped. “We would ask

that the family are now given the respect of some privacy to just

grieve on their own.” Cheshire Police said today the inquest into

Speed’s death will be opened at Warrington Coroner’s Court tomorrow

at 3pm. The Football Association of Wales (FAW) have opened a book

of condolence after being inundated with messages of support

following Speed’s death. Fans will be able to go to the FAW

headquarters in Cardiff to leave their tributes. FAW chief

executive Jonathan Ford said that the organisation had received

messages from UEFA and FIFA, with the Welsh flag at FIFA House in

Zurich flying at half-mast. A visibly emotional Ford said: “We have

had hundreds of messages, my phone hasn’t stopped with messages

from everyone involved or not involved. It has touched everybody.

“We have had messages from family, friends have called,

professional people have called, and they have all been heartfelt

messages from people who may only have met Gary a couple of times,

which showed the mark of the man. “He was such a great person and

he is such a loss. “We have a book of condolence available at FAW

headquarters and there is an area set aside for fans to leave

flowers. Our door is open and we are trying to do everything we can

at this terrible, terrible time.” Ford also said the FAW, whose own

flag is at half-mast at the national side’s former Vale Resort base

in Hensol, would look to provide a tribute for the late Wales

manager. “There will be, I am sure, a fitting tribute at some point

in time but for now we are just looking in the short term and

anything we can do for (Speed’s widow) Louise and the boys,” he

said. Speed’s former Leeds team-mate Gary McAllister admitted the

news of his death “shook him to the bones” yesterday. McAllister

was part of the Leeds team alongside Speed which won the First

Division title in 1992 and was a pundit alongside the Welshman on

the BBC’s Football Focus programme on Saturday afternoon. “Alan

Shearer broke the news to me (yesterday) and it turned me to

jelly,” McAllister told Sky Sports News. “I couldn’t believe what

he was saying. It shook me to the bones, I was in shock for most of

the day. “Twenty minutes before we went on air on Saturday, he was

the normal Gary Speed to me. 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.” Tottenham winger Gareth Bale, one of the

brightest talents in the exciting young Wales side being built by

Speed, told www.tottenhamhotspur.com: “It was a massive shock, I

don’t think anybody ever thought anything like this would happen.

“Everyone is devastated and it is a massive loss to everyone in

football. “It is a tragedy, everyone still can’t get their head

around it and all our condolences go out to his family and his

kids. It is a hard time.” Robin McBryde, one of the assistant

coaches of the Wales rugby union side, also paid a warm tribute to

his countryman. “He was someone whose work we admired from afar,

both as a player and as a coach. It’s a big loss,” he said. “You

hear all the plaudits he is getting from fellow players and coaches

who have worked with him. “He is a loss not only to football, but

as a man as well off the pitch. That really comes across.”