Football in shock at death of Wales manager Gary Speed
The football world was in mourning last night after popular Wales manager Gary Speed was found dead at his home at the age of 42.
The death of the former Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle United midfielder shocked players and fans and prompted a flood of tributes from a host of public figures, including British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cheshire Police confirmed that the body of the father-of-two was discovered where he lived on the outskirts of Chester and said there were “no suspicious circumstances”.
It is believed he had taken his own life.
A police spokeswoman said: “At 7.08am today, Cheshire Police was informed of a sudden death at an address in Huntington, Chester.
“Officers went to the scene where a 42-year-old man was found dead. The next of kin have been informed and have confirmed the identity of the man as Gary Speed.
“There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. The family have requested that they are left in peace to grieve at this difficult time.”
Speed, whose career on the pitch also included stints at Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United, was appointed manager of Wales in December 2010 after retiring as a player in May last year.
He took charge of Wales for the first time in February, with his last game as manager on November 12 when the team won 4-1 in a friendly against Norway.
On Saturday afternoon, he appeared on BBC1’s Football Focus show, and his friend and former footballer Robbie Savage said he had last spoken to him on Saturday also.
Premiership stars and senior politicians led tributes to Speed as fans took to Twitter and Facebook to express their grief at his death.
Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs, who played alongside Speed for 13 years, summed up the disbelief of many.
“I am totally devastated. Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend,” he said. “Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news.”
David Cameron shared his shock. A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Gary Speed, who was greatly respected by football fans across the country both as a player and manager.
“The Prime Minister’s thoughts are with his family and friends on this very sad day for fans everywhere, especially in Wales.”
Former Wales player Savage tweeted: “The world has lost a great man in Gary Speed I’m devastated spoke to him yesterday morning why! Why. Why!! I’ll miss him so much x
“He come to watch Strictly 3/4 weeks ago I high fived him in the front row he loved the show, he loved life he loved his family! Devastated.
“He was upbeat on phone yesterday we were laughing together, talking football and dancing he was a great team-mate and a great friend. RIP.”
Manchester United striker Michael Owen tweeted: “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.”
Mark Bowen, who played alongside Speed for Wales for almost 10 years, told the BBC’s The World This Weekend that he was a “team-mate you could always rely on”.
He said: “He had a fantastic career as player and as a manager and a coach. It almost seems to pale into insignificance as what it means to his wife and two boys.”
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who signed Speed when he was manager of Newcastle, said that he felt he had had to go on with his side’s match with Manchester City today.
“I think it would be disrespectful to Gary if we didn’t get on with the game, so we’ve just got to try and get on with it as best we can,” he told Sky News.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said that his death was “a tragic and shocking event”.
He said: “The high-pressure environment of top-level sport can cause huge levels of stress and, just because someone appears to be able to carry on their usual daily life, it does not mean that they are not struggling in private.
“Gary Speed is not the first footballer to experience mental distress and nor, sadly, will he be the last. The suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke in 2009 shows that sportsmen, like anyone else, are not immune from the devastating effects of mental-health problems.”