Wales manager Gary Speed dies at 42

Gary Speed, who became Wales’ soccer 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. 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 only become Wales coach in December in a move that had long

been predicted by former teammates and commentators. Only

goalkeeper Neville Southall, with 92 appearances, played more games

for Wales.

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

British Empire award in her annual Birthday Honors list for his

services to soccer.

”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 championship with the club in

1992.

Moving on to Everton and then Newcastle, Speed became the first

player to play in 500 Premier League games and held the record with

535 until it was surpassed by goalkeeper David James in 2009. Ryan

Giggs has also since passed the mark.

Speed scored in every topflight season in which he played until

dropping out of the Premier League in 2008 when he joined Sheffield

United.

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 season but was soon approached by Wales after John

Toshack resigned as coach.

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

victory over Norway two weeks ago, earning praise for Wales’ 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.”