'I think about him every day' - Chris Coleman pays tribute to Gary Speed ahead of semi
Wales manager Chris Coleman revealed his enduring sadness on Tuesday over the loss of his friend and predecessor Gary Speed, whom he said “could be sitting here where I am, enjoying what we're enjoying,” if he had not died so prematurely.
Coleman’s team would clearly see victory over Portugal in the European Championship semi-final on Wednesday night as something they could dedicate to Speed, whose death at the age of 42 in 2011 so devastated the squad he had begun to assemble as manager. Most of those starting on Wednesday night were Speed’s players, too.
Coleman – who is expected to deploy Leicester City’s Andy King in place of the suspended Aaron Ramsey here in the Stade de Lyon on Wednesday – declared that Speed’s ten games at the helm of the national team had denied him the chance to leave a managerial legacy, despite the huge promise he had shown at the helm of the national team.
Remembering the man he first knew from their time together at Manchester City’s academy, then as a Welsh team-mate, he insisted that he did not need Wednesday night to remind him of Speed, who was found dead in the garage of his home in November 2011. It was the second time the 46-year-old has spoken of his friend in the past 72 hours.
“If you think about Gary Speed, he had 10 games as a manager,” Coleman said, in another hugely impressive press conference delivery. “It's hard to have a legacy in 10 games.
“Speedo's legacy is 85 caps for Wales, and maybe over 50 as a captain, plus his 10 games as a manager in which he won five and showed great promise as a young manager. And then what happened, happened, unfortunately. He's not just a Welsh but a sporting icon. I don't need a game of football for me to remember Speeds.
"I think about him every day, not just because I'm at a tournament. I don't need Wales football to remind me of my friend. He could be sitting here where I am, enjoying what we're enjoying. Unfortunately that was taken away. We always remember Speeds.”
Wales captain Ashley Williams said his thoughts had turned to Speed on the flight down to south east France from the nation’s Brittany training base on Tuesday. “My thought coming in was ‘I hope he'd be proud of us’. He saw us grow up, and what we've achieved today. He's always in the back of our minds. When we achieve something, we think about him.”
The manager said that his side were quite capable of matching the well-known Portuguese gamesmanship with some more of their own on Wednesday. The players had become “streetwise, football smart” and able to do what they had to do, even though “sometimes it's not pretty, or even ugly, and you can see it as negative.”
Coleman said: “We know their players individually and collectively, we know what to expect. But at this level in international football, where sometimes games are decided in a second, a turnover, the ball changes hands, somebody makes the wrong decision and suddenly you're behind in the game... you call it gamesmanship, but sometimes it's being streetwise at this level.”
Despite the fact that Portugal’s only wins in this tournament have been on penalties, while Wales have won four times, Coleman insisted that his team were the underdogs – citing Portugal’s seven tournament semi-finals. (suggest this sentence stays) He seems to be leaning towards shifting Chris Gunter from the right flank to centre half to replace the suspended Ben Davies on Wednesday night and drafting in Jazz Richards. West Ham’s James Collins is a possible straight replacement.
Independent News Service