Wales determined to do Speed proud
Late manager in players' thoughts ahead of historic semi-final
Wales captain Ashley Williams has admitted that the players are all thinking of Gary Speed ahead of the biggest game in the country's history and are determined tonight to deliver a performance that would make their late manager proud.
It is almost five years since Speed died but the core of the young Welsh squad that he nurtured has remained together under Chris Coleman and now stand just 90 minutes from following Alf Ramsey's 1966 England team as only the second British side to reach an international final.
On the flight to Lyon yesterday from the team's Brittany training base, Williams read the chapter about Speed in the new book, 'Together Stronger', which charts the rise of the Wales team and how the squad derived such resilience from the tragedy.
"I was thinking about him on the plane coming over," said Williams. "I was reading Chris Wathan's book and it brought it back to me. My thought coming in was, 'I hope he'd be proud of us'. He saw us grow up. He's always in the back of our minds. When we achieve something, we think about him."
Coleman grew up as a young footballer in Wales with Speed and, after seeing his predecessor begin the revival of a team who had languished at 117 in the world rankings, said that he was thinking constantly of his friend.
"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 showed great promise," said Coleman.
"He's not just a Welsh icon but a sporting icon. But I don't need a game of football for me to be reminded of my friend. I think about him every day. He could be sitting here where I am, enjoying what we're enjoying. Unfortunately, that was taken away. We always remember Speeds." (© Daily Telegraph, London)