Collins: ‘Speed was doing great things for Wales’

Aidan Fitzmaurice

WELSH football has been left devastated by the death of team manager and Wales legend Gary Speed.

The 42-year-old had a difficult start to his career as manager of the national side as Giovanni Trapattoni's team beat Wales 3-0 in Dublin last February in the Carling Nations Cup, Speed's first game in charge of the team, but the former Newcastle and Everton star went on to revive Welsh fortunes and the team held out serious hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals.

Those plans are now in tatters as Welsh football tries to come to terms with the loss of Speed, who was very highly regarded across the game in Britain but especially in his native Wales.

“I'm just devastated,” said James Collins, the Wales international who somehow found the strength to play for his club, Aston Villa, against Swansea yesterday.

“It's a sad loss of a man who was doing great, great things for Welsh football. I played with him as well for a long time, so it was hard to even play the game today.

“We knew two hours before, just when we were getting to the ground. It was heartbreaking. It was a good game playing here in Wales, probably one he would have been watching.

“I can't speak highly enough of him, he was a great player in his time, obviously I played with him for Wales and he's been my manager for a few years now, so it's devastating.

“Wales have been absolutely flying, he's been doing great things for Welsh football so that's even more devastating. We were on the verge of great things, so everyone who's been involved or who has ever met him is going to be devastated.

“Shay (Given) was obviously devastated, same as everyone. Shay was very close with him and you could see that in the minute's silence.

“He was so emotional that you didn't know if he was going to play the game. That just says it all, how seriously affected everyone's lives are. We're all just devastated and our thoughts are with his family,” added Collins.