News of the untimely death of former Leeds United midfielder
Gary Speed broke on the morning of Sunday, 27 November 2011.
The 42-year-old, who had succeeded John Toshack as manager of
Wales in December 2010, appeared as a guest the previous day on
BBC's Football Focus programme, with presenter Dan Walker, who
recalled the day on his blog: "He was cracking jokes with Gary
McAllister, his midfield partner from the title-winning Leeds
side of 1991/92. Off air we talked about playing golf, how good
his boys were at football and his dreams of taking Wales to the
World Cup in 2014.
"After Focus we recorded a 10-minute piece with Gary talking
about Wales' qualifying campaign for the next World Cup. He spoke
with passion about the fixtures and desire to see success. His
hope was that the upturn in form would see his team playing in
front of full stadia again. He joked about Team GB and how Scotland
would be an easy game, McAllister giggled.
"I joined Gary in the Match of the Day production office a few
minutes later where he was chatting with Shearer, Mark Lawrenson
and McAllister. They were having a laugh and watching the Stoke
v Blackburn game. Alan and Gary were organising when they were
going to see each other next before Shearer left to go to watch
Manchester United v Newcastle at Old Trafford. They all ribbed
Alan for his comedy hat that later featured on MOTD."
After the match ended, Speed drove home to Cheshire. The following
morning, just before 7am, his wife Louise found his body hanged
in the garage. She telephoned the ambulance service at 7:08am
and the police were also informed. They confirmed that they were
not treating the death as suspicious. His death was announced
to the public by the Football Association of Wales.
An inquest was held, with the coroner reaching a narrative verdict,
stating that cause of death was by "self-suspension". There was
insufficient evidence to determine whether it was intentional
as he may have intended
to make a "dramatic gesture".
The inquest heard that the pressure of management had put some
strain on his marriage and that he and Louise had argued the night
before his death. Alan Shearer had told Speed that such arguments
were normal within a long-term relationship, and Louise told the
inquest how recent conversations between her and her husband "went
on about our future together and how excited he was about our
Four days before his death, Speed had sent a text to his wife
about the possibility of suicide, but he also dismissed such an
action because of the importance of his wife and two children.
The football world was stunned by the news and rallied round,
united in their tributes to the likeable Welshman.
Speed was the first player to make 500 appearances in the Premier
League, after signing professional terms with Leeds in 1988 and
making his first team debut at the age of 19 under the management
of Howard Wilkinson, who commented: "Gary Speed was honourable,
trustworthy and a joy to manage. He was honest, he was a role
model and he was a great bloke. An avid learner, he recognised
responsibility and he was always fully committed. Above all, he
was a lovely person. Out of all the players I've have had under
my wing, he remained a real favourite.
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"As the ultimate professional, Gary was a star in the true sense.
For him to leave us at 42 is such a tragic loss. As a manager
he had a life of success to look forward to, I'm sure. He had
started so promisingly in charge of Wales, I imagined his managerial
career would follow a steadily upward curve.
"His horrendous passing represents an unbelievable loss to his
family and the football world. He leaves a huge, huge void and
I can't begin to try to think what his parents, his lovely wife,
Louise, and his boys are going through at this time. I'm finding
this very, very difficult to come to terms with. It's unbelievable.
I'm still struggling to get my head round it.
"I knew his parents, his dad in particular, very well because
when I became manager of Leeds United Gary was one of what was
then known as the groundstaff boys.
"My first meeting with Gary was in 1988 when I joined Leeds and
I quickly realised he had a lovely personality. My first memory
of him as a footballer relates to shortly after that when I watched
him play left-back in a youth game.
"After working with him in training a few times I was soon telling
him he could play in a few other roles, most notably wide left
and left midfield. I think by the end at Leeds, I'd played him
in nine or 10 outfield positions but, unlike some players, Gary
never complained, never, ever showed any dissent. He just got
on with things and, whatever job he was asked to do, invariably
did it very well.
"He was a terrific footballer, not as naturally gifted as some,
but he worked so hard, listened to advice and made the very most
of everything he had. As a man, I've rarely come across a better,
more balanced or more genuine person. He had a lovely family and,
as the years passed, I was pleased to be able to get to know his
wife and his two sons, Tommy and Ed, one of whom is a gifted footballer
and the other a talented boxer. Playing in our title winning midfield
at Leeds, Gary became particularly close to Gary McAllister and
Gordon Strachan. They were his big, big mates and mentors and
they stayed close friends until the end.
"I'm proud that Gary attributed the extraordinary longevity of
his playing career to things he learnt from being with us at Leeds.
He felt the knowledge he acquired about fitness, diet and hydration
during those early years at Elland Road
helped him keep going for so long at Bolton before he finally
decided to become a coach.
"Unlike some well-known players, Gary really believed in coach
education and attended every course he could. When he took over
as manager of Sheffield United he used the skills he'd learnt
to help bring young players through to the first team and, later,
he showed real commitment to the development of coaching in Wales.
"In many ways his approach to coaching and management was exactly
the same as his approach to playing: he was absolutely dedicated
and always eager to learn as much as possible. You could see how
well he was starting to apply that knowledge in his job with Wales."
Speed helped Leeds win the Second Division title in 1990 and
the championship two years later. He joined Everton in 1996 and
later played for Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United. He went
on to manage the Blades before taking change of Wales, for whom
he appeared 85 times as a player.
James Brown from the Sabotage Times website: "If ever there was
a player you could point to as a role model it was Gary Speed.
Maybe one of those kids I train, or the boys they play against,
or any other kid running over muddy parks all over the country
this morning will become as great a footballer and sportsman as
Gary Speed. That's what you hope for, but they'll have to go some
way to achieve that.
"Last night I was stood in the Leeds United manager's office
at Elland Road with Simon Grayson and my two closest Leeds United
supporting friends. One of them is Gary's friend and agent. All
four of us have known Gary Speed to differing degrees. None of
us could have predicted that 12 hours later Gary would be found
dead at home by his wife, Louise. The manager's area, reception,
and players' lounge at Elland Road are covered with pictures of
the great players who made their names under Don
Revie, Howard Wilkinson and David O'Leary. It wasn't always
that way, when Howard Wilkinson, arrived at the club at the end
of the 1980s he insisted they take down the images of the Revie
legends who were proving too great a team for subsequent groups
of players to measure themselves against.
"It was Wilkinson's aim to create a new generation of players
who would create a name for themselves. Gary Speed was a vital,
vibrant part of the success Wilkinson steered the club to. Of
all the pictures of the great Jack
Charlton, free kick expert Ian Harte, midfield dynamo David
Batty, and the images of the British Forces soldiers in their
Leeds kits the one I looked at longest yesterday was the group
image of Howard Wilkinson's squad celebrating their winning the
old League Division One championship.
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"If Batty was the tenacity in that great midfield, Speed was
the pace and the cutting edge, McAllister was the passer, Strachan
pulled the strings, but it was Speedo streaking forward with the
ball that was the youthful threat the team needed. With Batts,
Speedo represented the present and also the future. His recent
success after a wobbly start as the Welsh national football manager
has given similar hope and optimism to a nation for whom footballing
success has been sparse. He was instrumental in helping Leeds
United recapture glory and there's few who could argue that he
hadn't started something significant with his young Welsh team.
"Back in the early 90s at Elland Road some fans would mock Speedo
for growing his hair long, he could have come out in a pink afro
for all I cared, so long as he made up the fourth place in the
fantastic midfield line up and carried the game to the opposition
like he did. His friend Ryan Giggs might have had that added Úlan
to his play that won him the extra attention but Speed was pretty
much the all-round midfielder, as reflected in the quality of
clubs he played for and the men like Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello
who coveted him. When I think of Gary on the pitch I think of
a player who works and runs constantly, who can score all sorts
"Those who knew Gary Speed very well, his friends and colleagues
in and out of football, are as shocked as the rest of us who simply
admired him. But it didn't matter if you played for Wales, Manchester
United or were just a fan of football he would have time for you.
He was an inspiration. Everyone who ever met him will tell you
what a nice guy he was but that's the word I would use, Inspiration.
"We are so often taught to respect our elders that it becomes
strange when the footballers in the team you support are younger
than you and you find yourself admiring them. Go on Twitter or
turn on the TV and you will see new and old quotes from the greatest
British footballing talent of the last 25 years paying tribute.
Sky will be telling you about his appearance records, transfer
fees and fitness. I will leave them to deliver the stats and quote
"For me this is more personal. I've been where his family are
right now. My mum took her own life in February 1992 and when
Leeds won the League that year it was the first time I felt happy.
Maybe that's why I'm still sitting here in tears. Speed was part
of something that's bigger than just football results and performances.
He contributed to something that made people feel their lives
were better because of it. He was a good man who was good to people
and you can't really ask for any more than that. Most suicides
leave you feeling 'it's just not right' but some deaths are sadly
inevitable. Gary Speed's wasn't, his death is truly shocking and
has rocked the world of football and beyond. He will be painfully
missed by those that knew him, those that enjoyed what he gave
to the world of sport and for those young kids legging it round
the parks this morning hopefully his passing will prompt them
to take some time to find out about him.
"People like Gary are the reason I still play football, still
travel hundreds of miles to watch my team, still get up in the
rain and go and train ten-year-olds after 6 hours sleep. They
are what is great about football. He played to the best of his
ability and with enthusiasm. Gary Speed was a good man I admired.
I can't say any more than that."
Henry Winter in the Telegraph: "It was shortly after 11am on
Monday when a Manchester United fan
approached the Gary Speed shrine enveloping the Billy Bremner
statue outside Elland Road. He clutched a Manchester United shirt
bearing the message 'Gary Speed RIP'.
"Wary of the reaction from the 30 or so Leeds United supporters
gathered around the ever-expanding memorial to a fallen hero,
the man from Manchester walked up to a Leeds official standing
nearby. 'Can I lay this,' he asked, holding out the shirt. 'Of
course,' came the reply. 'But will they say anything?' added the
fan, pointing to the Leeds group. 'No, of course they won't,'
replied the official, who accompanied him to where the flowers,
cards, shirts and scarves were spreading from the plinth on to
"He carefully, respectfully placed the shirt of Leeds' fiercest
rivals in the middle of a sea of white. Some of the Leeds supporters
engaged him in warm conversation. 'I'm a Manchester United fan,'
he explained, 'but I wanted to show my respect to Gary for everything
he did for football.'
"The terrace tribalism that can scar football was placed to one
side as a sport united in mourning. Speed's immense standing in
the game was reflected by this genuine gesture from a rival. Fans
of all hues admired Speed because he embodied certain qualities
that all fans crave in their stars: the hard work, the pride in
the shirt, the ability to create and score.
"The outpouring of emotion shows no sign of slowing. Speed was
so deeply loved. Such was the volume of people wanting to post
messages on the Football Association of Wales' online book of
condolences that the organisation's site briefly could not handle
the intense traffic.
"Among the many tributes paid to Speed, the image of the FA of
Wales computer with smoke pouring from its seams painted a vivid
picture of his popularity. The most bipolar of sports, football
can divide and unite, can reverberate to the vilest of chants
and also pause for the most respectful of silences.
"After Hillsborough, Alex Ferguson was immediately on the phone
to Kenny Dalglish, offering to send fans' representatives to Anfield.
As he told Dalglish, Ferguson wanted Manchester United to show
support for Liverpool in a time of such tragedy. No triteness
is intended with the simple observation that football handles
grief well. The family of football, often fractious, congregates
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"In Speed's case, there is a desire to record gratitude for the
joy he gave so many, to register disbelief at the untimely end
of such a handsome, decent, ego-free man and, of course, to pass
on condolences to his family. Other clubs' colours, and scribbled
expressions of sympathy from match day adversaries, could be found
at the Speed shrine.
"I visited late on Sunday. Even in the dark of a cold Yorkshire
night, people were still driving up, parking and pausing for a
few moments to remember a club icon.
"Some Leeds fans placed a picture of Speed in that 92 title-winning
kit, even one from the 90/91 season emblazoned
with 'TOPMAN'. How appropriate. Summed up Speed. A police car
even pulled up, the two officers examining this field of flowers
and fabrics, this testament to the powerful feelings stirred by
a likeable, talented Welshman.
"Leeds responded sensitively to Sunday's desperate news. At 6am
on Monday, their manager, Simon Grayson, embarked on a series
of interviews, shuttling between local television studios and
the Speed shrine. By 8am, Grayson had done seven live interviews.
He talked and talked, calmly and impressively, when the emotion
must have been coursing through him like a rip tide.
"For Grayson grew up with Speed at Leeds, the pair had stayed
good friends, and now he had to face question after question about
the death of a team mate and a room mate.
"Grayson conducted himself with great dignity in trying circumstances.
Behind Grayson, inside Elland Road, Speed's old club were besieged
with calls from around the world, from the vast diaspora of Leeds
fans mourning the loss of a revered footballing son.
"'The reaction has been phenomenal, unbelievable,' remarked a
club official, in between fielding calls not just from the far
flung parts but from followers of many different clubs
"Once again, with the Speed tragedy, one comes back to his elevated
standing among all clubs. The high regard in which Speed was held
is also captured in the number of clubs planning special tributes
to him, whether periods of silence or applause.
"Many eyes will be on Nottingham. When Grayson's team visit Forest
on Tuesday evening, the City Ground will fall silent for a minute
before kick off. Leeds fans apparently intend singing a special
tribute to Speed after 11 minutes, honouring his old club number.
"Saturday brings one of Leeds' rivals, Millwall, to Elland Road
when the majority of Speed tributes are scheduled for what will
be an occasion of raw emotion. Leeds will ask both captains to
"For hours before kick off, thousands will mill around the Bremner
statue, adding to the Speed shrine. Inevitably most poignant at
Elland Road, similar scenes are being echoed at his other clubs.
"Shirts and scarves were draped on railings outside Bramall Lane,
around a large photograph of
Speed at the Reebok, on the gates outside Goodison Park and outside
St James' Park.
"As with Grayson at Leeds, all of Speed's clubs responded to
the tragedy with real class. Bolton Wanderers captain Kevin Davies,
typically, spoke well of his old team mate. He even donned black
attire for interviews. The chief executive of the FA of Wales,
Jonathan Ford, talked powerfully about Speed, and threw open the
door to the organisation's office for those needing support at
'this terrible, terrible time'.
"Wherever you look and listen, people are honouring Speed. Aston
Villa's fine supporters have already stood in silent salute of
the Wales manager at the Liberty Stadium.
"Of course they should, people will cry, it's common decency.
Sadly, it's not always thus. I covered a Holland v France match
in Lens when the Dutch fans tried to start a Mexican wave during
a minute's silence for a French disaster. Enmity is a part of
"Not this week. Any hostilities that stain the game on these
shores have been put on hold. Speed's stature in the game ensured
that. In their darkest hour, at least his family know that countless
people grieve with them."
Two days after Speed's death, United played Nottingham Forest
at the City Ground in a Championship fixture. The club confirmed
that there would be a minute's applause before the game and that
both teams would wear black armbands as a mark of respect. But
the most notable act of remembrance would be that from the travelling
United fans, who declared that they would sing celebratory chants
for eleven minutes, starting in the 11th minute, in recognition
of the No 11 that Speed wore so well.
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Simon Grayson, a friend for 25 years: "We came to Elland Road
as 14-year-olds and signed on the morning of a game and it was
the first time I've ever come across him. His dad was with him
and my dad was with me and Gary had that Chester accent I'd never
came across. From then on, we trained together and in the school
holidays, my parents came close to his parents who followed him
in the youth team, reserves and then first team games. Subsequently,
our paths crossed as players and then later on, as managers, we
did six or seven years on coaching courses together. But it just
seems just like yesterday we were 14-year-olds coming to this
"Sunday was a difficult day and I won't be the first to admit
that I shed a tear when I got the news. I left here and just spent
a little bit of time to myself. But you've got to get your professional
head on because Gary would have wanted us to do that. He'd have
been doing exactly the same thing, preparing his team as thoroughly
as possible for a game. It would be a fantastic and fitting way
for us to remember Gary by managing to get three points. Hopefully,
my team can do Gary Speed justice in terms of how he produced
performances for this football club."
After United's dismal showing three days earlier in a 2-1 defeat
at home to Barnsley, Grayson chose to shake things up, reverting
to the 4-5-1 formation that had served him so well the previous
season. Aidy White took up the role on the left that had been
left vacant after Max Gradel's transfer and Michael Brown was
given his first start since September 10, allowing Jonny Howson
to take up a
more advanced position.
After a pre-kick off minute's applause, the action was played
out to the backdrop of sustained chanting of "Oh, Gary Gary, Gary
Gary Gary, Gary Speed".
United players rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion, exerting
utter dominance from start to finish. They were immediately on
the offensive, White breaking down the left inside the first 20
seconds to throw in a cross, from which Robert Snodgrass shot
high over the bar.
Forest centre-back Wes Morgan had to deal with another cross
and Howson tested goalkeeper Lee Camp with a low drive. Brown
then worked the keeper even harder with a strike from 30 yards.
As planned, the concentrated chant began in the eleventh minute
and echoed round the City Ground. It was a spine tingling show
of togetherness and celebration and it was so very, very fitting
that, just as the planned eleven minutes were drawing to a close,
United should take the lead. Adam Clayton dispossessed a Forest
player in the middle of their half and latter day hero Snodgrass
took the ball and unleashed a crisp strike from distance to beat
Forest keeper Lee Camp.
The goal was fitting reward for the way United had dominated
the opening minutes, and they continued to do so with Luciano
Becchio having two efforts blocked by defenders. Snodgrass was
denied a second goal after Camp came out to meet his run. The
Scottish winger emerged from the challenge with the ball and tried
to find the vacant goal from 25 yards, but his shot was deflected
onto the roof of the net by a last ditch intervention from Morgan.
Snodgrass was involved again after 40 minutes, robbing Cunningham
to get away down the right but when he pulled the ball back, Howson
On the stroke of half time, from Becchio's flicked header, Snodgrass
cushioned a pass out to Howson on the right. The midfielder launched
into it first time and lashed home a spectacular strike from 20
yards to make it 2-0.
Forest had barely registered a chance in the first half and brought
on Ishmael Miller after the break in a bid to remedy this, but
they were left reeling after four minutes when United scored their
third. Brown curled in a cross from
the left flank and Becchio nodded home from the edge of the six-yard
Miller did get in on the action on the hour but his header was
comfortably saved by United keeper Alex McCarthy.
After 66 minutes, United moved into a 4-0 lead. Howson picked
up the ball five yards outside the area and wriggled his way deep
into the danger zone. His shot was parried by Camp, but Clayton
latched onto the loose ball and fired into the roof of the net
from six yards.
Forest's misery was compounded with ten minutes remaining when
midfielder Andy Reid was shown a second yellow card for a foul
which sent Aidy White flying.
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"Can we play you every week?" the United fans taunted from the
packed Bridgford End of the City Ground, drowning under an ocean
of white scarves.
Skipper Jonny Howson was possibly the man of the match. According
to Phil Hay in the Yorkshire Evening Post, "It is no secret that
a young Jonny Howson saw himself as a forward in the making. Those
who watched him blossom in Leeds United's academy remember a player
with great potential and a natural eye for goal.
"Until last season,
Howson had never scored more than five times in a single term.
But when a positional shift dictated by Simon Grayson helped him
find his finishing touch, he ran into double figures with a spate
of important goals. His potency was the direct result of Grayson's
decision to plant him in the void between United's midfield and
their striker, Luciano Becchio. Having previously scratched around
for chances, Howson scored a classic hat trick in a 4-1 victory
at Scunthorpe United and looked as if he had found a niche.
"For the first time in several months, he was given that freedom
again at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday and justified his role with
his first goal of the season, a brilliant volley from 20 yards.
Given the choice, United's captain would remain in that position
against Millwall tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Grayson
might be happy to let him after seeing Leeds mark an emotional
evening at the City Ground with a 4-0 victory."
Howson: "I've mentioned it before that I love to play in that
role. It's no secret. I haven't played there since the first game
of the season and it was nice to get the chance again. For me,
personally, I believe it's my natural position. I just do things
automatically when I'm playing there.
"I've got the insurance of having Clayts and Browny behind me
and I knew I could
push on every time we got the ball. It gave me more freedom and
it's something I really enjoy. When I play there, I always believe
I'm going to create chances or get chances myself. As a youngster,
I was brought up playing further forward. My main task was to
put Forest's defence under pressure and I think I helped us to
In previous games, Grayson had persisted with a two-man forward
line in which Ross McCormack was the focus and Andy Keogh a regular.
Becchio took Keogh's place against Barnsley and McCormack was
dropped at the City Ground, consigned to the bench despite his
11 goals. The impact was resounding.
"We obviously knew the circumstances before the game," Howson
said when asked about Gary Speed. "I didn't know Gary personally
but I was still affected. When you hear the news, your initial
reaction is that you can't believe it. Your thoughts and your
heart go out to his family and those closest to him. It was shocking
news and out of the blue - especially for the fans who'll have
watched him play for us. Leeds United is part of their lives.
Even people who didn't know Gary have been affected. I don't think
you'd be human if it didn't.
"The tributes at our ground show the kind of guy he was and the
effect he had on people. Listening to what everyone's had to say
about Gary, it's all positive. People can't speak highly enough
"I don't know if we were under more pressure at Forest, but obviously
we were going to give everything we had in memory of him.
"As difficult as things have been, it was a nice touch that our
fans sang his name for 11 minutes from the 11th minute. We could
hear them and we were aware of it.
"What we've done maybe won't help or make a difference but it's
a little something and all the lads wanted to do it. The win was
certainly for Gary and one for the fans too."
Simon Grayson: "Gary Speed was a fantastic person and I wanted
my players to go out and produce a performance for him tonight.
That was right out of the top locker of our performances tonight.
It was very poignant that the first goal came right as the 11
minutes of singing ended and was a left footed shot. Gary Speed
scored many goals like that. It's been difficult, but I'm a very
tonight. I'm delighted to have got a result for Gary Speed.
"We had a chat just before we went out and Glynn (Snodin) said
some words to the players about Gary, about who he was and what
he meant. They knew anyway, they know the feeling and they know
how well respected he was, not just at Leeds but throughout the
game. It was a passionate talk from Glynn and I'm not sure it's
something I could have done because I don't think I would have
been able to hold it together.
"It's probably the proudest result I've had at this club and
in my career as a manager. The performance was very apt and it
meant a lot to everybody. Our supporters can be proud of what
they've done since Sunday and what they'll do tomorrow.
"It's a challenge to raise ourselves again but the players were
very professional the other night. Many of them didn't know Gary
personally but they were doing it for our supporters who watched
him many times."
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