Tuesday 30 May 2017

Devastated fans bombard BBC to make Speed sport star of the year

Mark Hughes and Nigel Bunyan

THE BBC faced calls yesterday for Gary Speed, the Wales football manager who apparently committed suicide at his home, to be honoured at the Sports Personality of the Year awards.

Mr Speed was found hanged at his home in Cheshire on Sunday morning, leading to tributes from the world of football and beyond to the 42-year-old, who played for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle and Bolton Wanderers.

Fans also posted messages on Twitter and Facebook urging the BBC to honour Mr Speed at the ceremony on December 22.

Nominations for the coach of the year category closed on November 18 but fans are hopeful that the BBC will make an exception for Mr Speed.

There also remains the possibility that he will be honoured with one of the awards that do not require a voting panel, or with a special award.

George Cohen, the 1966 World Cup winner, said: "It would be a lovely gesture. It was such a tragic thing to happen to a young man with everything to live for and all the tributes that have been paid over the last couple of days show how highly he was regarded."

Mr Speed's family said they had been "overwhelmed" by the public support.

His widow, Louise, issued a statement through Hayden Evans, a family friend. Mr Evans emerged from the family home in Huntington, Cheshire, to say: "Gary's family would sincerely like to thank all the people who have sent messages of condolence and tribute at what is a very difficult time.

Contribution

"They have been overwhelmed by the support and it has really helped."

On the internet, fans began a campaign for his contribution to sport to be recognised by the BBC. Jon Tabbernor wrote on Twitter: "Gary Speed should be nominated for coach of the year for Sports Personality for the job he has done with Wales in the past year."

Amar Ahluwalia added: "Sports Personality of the Year. Given all the amazing tributes, it should go to Gary Speed."

Tributes poured in from a host of public and sporting figures, including the UK prime minister, David Cameron.

On a visit to Manchester, Mr Cameron said: "I think it has been incredibly moving.

"I was watching 'Match Of The Day' last night and watching people, crowds, absolutely silent and footballers revering his memory.

"Obviously here in the north, where he played for so many of the iconic teams, I know he meant an enormous amount to people and people feel very, very sad on his behalf and on his family's behalf."

Supporters have left scarves, football shirts and flowers across several football stadiums -- including Everton's Goodison Park, at Leeds United's Elland Road, Newcastle United's St James' Park and The Millennium Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium, where Wales played their home games.

Flags outside the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff were flying at half-mast.

Welsh football bosses have admitted the shock and mystery surrounding the death will continue for years to come.

The Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford said it felt odd to be holding a press conference without the team manager by his side.

Choking back the tears, he said: "It is surreal. I am so emotionally cut up.

"We can't fathom it, we can't understand it and I think we will be guessing for many years to come.

"We are all devastated. At the office, we huddled and cried together today." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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