Wales football manager Gary Speed dies aged 42

Gary Speed, who took over as Wales football coach just 11 months

ago after playing for his country a record 85 times, has died. He

was 42.

The Football Association of Wales announced Speed’s death Sunday

without giving the cause.

Local police said there were no suspicious circumstances

surrounding Speed’s death.

Speed is survived by his wife and two children.

”We extend our sympathies and condolences to the family,” the

FAW said in a statement. ”We ask that everyone respects the

family’s privacy at this very sad time.”

Speed, whose 85 caps is a Welsh record for an outfield player,

had become Wales coach in December in a move long predicted by

former teammates and commentators. Only goalkeeper Neville

Southall, with 92 appearances, played more games for Wales.

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.

Speed began his career as a skillful, speedy wide midfielder

before maturing into a canny central player able to find space for

his shots and headers with a well-timed late run into the area. He

scored more than 100 goals across spells with Leeds, boyhood club

Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United.

Speed became the first player to play in 500 Premier League

games and held the all-time record with 535 until it was surpassed

by goalkeeper David James in 2009. Ryan Giggs has also since passed

the mark.

The midfielder also scored in every topflight season in which he

played until dropping out of the Premier League in 2008 when he

joined Sheffield United.

Last year, Queen Elizabeth II gave Speed the Member of the

British Empire award in her annual Birthday Honors list for his

services to football.

”Just cannot believe the news regarding Gary Speed. We waved at

each other a couple of days ago dropping our kids off at school.

I’m numb,” Manchester United striker Michael Owen wrote on

Twitter. ”He has died aged 42. So sad. He lived local to me and we

knew his family. He leaves behind 2 sons. Tragic.”

Admired for his dedication, fitness and consistency in a 20-year

playing career – as well as a knack for goals – Speed started out

with Leeds and won the English league with the club in 1992.

With injuries finally beginning to affect him, Speed became a

coach at Sheffield United and formally retired from playing at the

end of the 2009-10 season. He became Blades manager early in the

following campaign but was soon approached by Wales after John

Toshack resigned as coach.

Speed led the team to five wins from 10 matches, including a 4-1

win over Norway two weeks ago, earning plaudits for the side’s

style of play and emphasis on youth.

”We’ve got talent in abundance and I’m fortunate to be in that

position,” Speed said after the Nov. 12 win in Cardiff. ”We are

building for the future. There is still a lot of improving to be

done but we are going in the right direction.”

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Celtic’s Joe

Ledley were among those prominent in Speed’s squad, which was

expected to challenge more strongly than usual in qualifying for

the 2014 World Cup. Wales is in the same qualifying group as

Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland and Macedonia.