Thursday 30 March 2017

Gary Speed died hours after joking with colleagues on BBC’S Football Focus

Wales boss Speed had been 'in great form'

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, his wife Jane, Louise
Speed and Wales manager Gary Speed attending a fundraiser on May 15 this year in
Manchester
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, his wife Jane, Louise Speed and Wales manager Gary Speed attending a fundraiser on May 15 this year in Manchester
Gary Speed on the touchline during a Wales match
Gary Speed was found dead at his home in Cheshire yesterday
Gary Speed (centre) celebrates winning the 1992 title with his Leeds team-mates

Mark Hughes

At midday on Saturday the Wales manager Gary Speed was live on the BBC's 'Football Focus' programme discussing his future plans for the side.

He was in "great form" according to those present and left after making tentative plans to appear again on the show before Christmas.

Yesterday morning, a little over 18 hours later, the 42-year-old was found hanged at his home in Cheshire having apparently committed suicide.

Last night mystery surrounded his death, with friends and figures in the football world at a loss to explain why Mr Speed, a successful young manager and former Premier League player, would apparently take his own life.

His death came a day after the former Liverpool footballer Stan Collymore spoke candidly about his battle with depression. Online speculation suggested that Mr Speed had perhaps suffered from the illness. Whether he did was not certain last night.

There was also a suggestion that Mr Speed, a former Leeds, Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers player, had recently learned that a tabloid newspaper was to print a story about his private life.

Last night 'The Sun' newspaper denied online accusations that they had approached him. A message on the paper's official Twitter account read: "No truth in this story. 'The Sun' was not investigating Gary Speed in any way."

Police were called to Mr Speed's home in Huntington, Chester, shortly after 7am yesterday. Officers discovered his body and a statement was released indicating that there were "no suspicious circumstances". Yesterday his wife, Louise, and two children, Edward (14) and Thomas (13), were believed to be with family at the remote country house.

Police said that the family intends to make a public statement "at a later date".

His Saturday had started with a trip to Salford, to the BBC's new studios, to appear as a guest on 'Football Focus' alongside his former Leeds team-mate Gary McAllister.

Dan Walker, the show's presenter, said that Mr Speed gave no outwardly sign of any personal turmoil. Instead he spoke about golf and his sons and even made tentative arrangements to appear on the show next month. Mr Walker said: "He was in great form, cracking jokes and asking about my family and kids. He was talking passionately about the future. There was absolutely no indication at all. He gave me the impression that he was really looking forward to his kids growing up to be really good footballers and Wales qualifying for the World Cup."

After the show ended, at 1pm, he met up with 'Match of the Day' pundits Alan Shearer, with whom he had played at Newcastle United, and Mark Lawrenson to watch the early Premier League game between Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers.

Then, just before 3pm, he made the short journey to Old Trafford to watch his former team Newcastle take on Manchester United.

Hanged

The match finished shortly before 5pm and it is thought Speed travelled back to his home in Chester where, little more than 12 hours later, he was found hanged.

At some point in the day Speed is thought to have spoken to his former Wales team-mate Robbie Savage.

Mr Savage, who is currently appearing on 'Strictly Come Dancing', wrote on Twitter: "He was upbeat on the phone yesterday we were laughing together, talking football and dancing. He was a great team-mate and a great friend.

"He came to watch strictly three or four weeks ago. I high fived him in the front row he loved the show, he loved life, he loved his family. Devastated."

Other tributes were paid from the world of football.

Michael Owen, the Manchester United striker, lived close to Mr Speed in Cheshire.

He wrote: "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.

"He has died aged 42. So sad. He lived local to me and we knew his family. He leaves behind two sons. Tragic."

Last week Speed travelled to Brussels to attend a fixtures meeting for Wales's World Cup campaign.

The Football Association of Wales 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."

Phil Pritchard, the association's president, 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."

Irish Independent

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