Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tributes For Gary Speed

Tributes have been pouring in for Wales manager Gary Speed who has been found dead at his home near Chester.

The 42-year-old former midfielder won 85 international caps and had been national team boss for 10 games.

"I'm devastated. He was a privilege to work alongside and call a friend," ex-Wales boss Mark Hughes told BBC Sport. "My thoughts are with his family."

Bobby Gould, who made Speed Wales captain, added: "I'm stunned and a few tears have been shed. It is so sad."

Speed made his name at Leeds and played a key role as United won the First Division title in 1992 - the season before it was rebranded the Premier League.

He went on to play for Everton, Newcastle and Bolton before being appointed manager of Wales in December 2010 after retiring as a player in May last year.

Howard Wilkinson, his manager at Elland Road, stated: "He had so much to offer as a person and as a sportsman.

"I just find it unbelievable. I cannot start to try to understand what his family are going through.

"Gary had a lot of talent and that talent became his job. Footballers are subject to all the stress and strains of things that happen in life.

"I always tried to get to know my players very well. He was a star in the truest sense. For him at 42 to leave us is such a tragic loss. He had a life of success to look forward to."

A Leeds United spokesperson has said the club is "stunned and saddened" to hear about Speed's death.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) chief executive Jonathan Ford said: "I, and all of the football family of Wales, am devastated by the news of Gary's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this difficult time."

FAW president, Phil Pritchard added: 'I am completely shocked by this terrible news and my thoughts are with his family. We will do whatever we can as an association to help them in this difficult time. All our thoughts are with his family and this sad time."

Speed's former national team-mate Dean Saunders said: "I just can't believe it. I spoke to him last week.

"We roomed together all of our careers with Wales. I just can't get my head around it. It's incredible.

"He's so level-headed. You never saw him down in the dumps. He was just a really nice fella. I'm just thinking about his wife and his lads."

Several of Speed's team-mates and friends have taken to social networking site Twitter to express their sadness and shock.

Robbie Savage, who is currently appearing on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing programme, played with Speed for Wales and told BBC Sport: "I spoke to him yesterday and he was in high spirits. I just can't believe it. He was my mate and he's gone.

"He's left two gorgeous kids behind. Gary was [a professional]. He was one of the fittest guys. He looked after his body.

"He was a great team-mate, a great manager.

"He was joking yesterday [on Saturday about Robbie being on Strictly Come Dancing], saying don't get a two off Craig [Revel Horwood]."

When asked if he knew of any indications of problems, Savage replied: "There was nothing at all, I just can't believe it."

Another of Speed's former team-mates Mark Bowen told BBC Sport: "Like the rest of the footballing community I am totally stunned. My thoughts are with his family it's hard to put into words.

"He trained like he played, he gave it 100%, he lived his life right off the field in terms of nutrition, which was new to a lot of us in those days.

"I'll remember seeing the smiling look on his face in the tunnel after the last Wales game."

Wales captain and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey tweeted: "I was given the tragic news this morning. To say I am devastated is an understatement. My thoughts and prayers go out to Gary's family and friends. Today the world has lost a great football manager but even more sadly a great man. He will be missed by all."

Speed had appeared on BBC's Football Focus programme on Saturday and presenter Dan Walker tweeted: "Staggered by the news of Gary Speed's death. Was with him for much of yesterday [Saturday]. I genuinely cannot believe it. Thoughts with his family.

"Gary was full of life yesterday talking about his kids, bright future with Wales, twitter, golf. Can't get my head round it. So sad."

BBC presenter Gabby Logan said: "So many memories of Gary. I'm immobilised with sadness. Met him 1st when Dad [Terry Yorath] managed Wales then worked with him. It's all so unfathomable x"

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