Wednesday 13 December 2017

Gary Speed found dead: Football unites in grief and asks why Wales manager hanged himself?

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
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
Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given couldn't hide his distress yesterday as the football world mourned the death of Gary Speed
Gary Speed was found dead at his home in Cheshire yesterday
Gary Speed (centre) celebrates winning the 1992 title with his Leeds team-mates

Chris Bascombe

THE football world was united in mourning today after the death of popular Wales manager Gary Speed left players and fans asking: "Why?"

The 42-year-old father of two was found hanged at his home yesterday morning, just a day after appearing on live television and chatting to fellow footballing figures, who expressed shock and disbelief.

Tributes to the former Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle United midfielder poured in from a host of public figures, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones.

Cheshire Police confirmed that Speed's body was discovered at the property in Huntington, on the outskirts of Chester, and said there were "no suspicious circumstances".

Sources said he was found hanged.

A police spokeswoman said: "Officers went to the scene where a 42-year-old man was found dead. The next of kin have been informed and have confirmed the identity of the man as Gary Speed.

"There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. The family have requested that they are left in peace to grieve at this difficult time."

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) announced Speed's death on its website and expressed its condolences to his relatives.

It said in a statement: "The Football Association of Wales are sad to announce the death of the national team manager Gary Speed.

"We extend our sympathies and condolences to the family. We ask that everyone respects the family's privacy at this very sad time."

The FAW described Speed as a "versatile" player who had enjoyed an "exemplary" career.

"All at the FAW admired Gary's passion for the job and task of taking the team back up the European and World rankings," its statement said.

"With the qualifying dates for the next World Cup group agreed only last week in Brussels, there was much to look forward to over the next few years.

"That this tragedy should have overtaken someone so young and talented is a huge loss not only for his family and friends but a nation as a whole."

Speed, whose career on the pitch also included stints at Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United, was appointed manager of Wales in December 2010 after retiring as a player in May last year.

He took charge of Wales for the first time in February, with his last game as manager on November 12 when the team won 4-1 in a friendly against Norway.

On Saturday afternoon he appeared on BBC One's Football Focus show, and his friend and former footballer Robbie Savage said he had last spoken to him that day too.

"The world has lost a great man in Gary Speed," he wrote in a heartfelt message on Twitter. "I'm devastated spoke to him yesterday morning why! Why. Why!! I'll miss him so much x".

Football pundit Mark Lawrenson told Match of the Day 2 viewers last night that he too had spoken to Speed only the day before.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron was "deeply saddened" to hear of the death of Speed, who was "greatly respected by football fans across the country both as a player and manager".

A spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's thoughts are with his family and friends on this very sad day for fans everywhere, especially in Wales."

Mr Jones described it as "devastating news" and said: "I'm deeply saddened to hear about the death of Gary Speed."

He added: "Our thoughts are with his family at what must be a very difficult time for them."

Former Wales teammate and Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs said he was "totally devastated".

He added: "Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a teammate and friend.

"Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news."

Awarded the MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for his services to football, Speed leaves a wife, Louise, and two sons, Ed and Tommy.

A family tribute will be released at a later date, police said.

After the news of his death broke, there was a minute's applause at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea as a mark of respect before yesterday's match between Swansea and Aston Villa.

Fans had been asked to "stand and remember Gary Speed with a minute's silence" but instead burst into applause to pay their respects.

Flags outside the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff were flying at half- mast today in tribute to Speed.

Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins called on fellow politicians to observe a minute's silence during tomorrow's Plenary session in the Senedd, the home of the Assembly.

Cheshire Police said the inquest will be opened at Warrington Coroner's Court tomorrow at 3pm.

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