David Beckham led the tributes to Gary Speed yesterday as the football world remained in mourning following the tragic death of the Wales manager.
Speed, 42, was found dead at his home in Cheshire on Sunday, with police sources confirming the former Newcastle, Everton, Leeds and Bolton midfielder hanged himself in his garage.The news stunned managers and players across the world, with tributes quickly pouring in for a man widely regarded as one of the good guys in a sport often fuelled by self-interest.
There were emotional scenes at Everton and Leeds, where fans paid their respects to Speed, who was married with two children, by laying shirts and scarves outside their club’s stadiums.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given, a former Newcastle colleague of Speed’s, had been reduced to tears during a minute’s silence in Speed’s memory before his club’s Premier League match at Swansea on Sunday.
And many more of Speed’s former teammates, as well as those who met him during their time in the game, gave moving tributes to their old friend yesterday.
Former Manchester United midfielder Beckham saluted Speed’s achievements, which included winning the old First Division title with Leeds in 1992 and reaching two FA Cup finals with Newcastle.
“I think he was an amazing, talented player, a player that had such a glittering career and just began a great career in management as well,” Beckham told media in Jakarta, where his LA Galaxy team are playing this week.
“On behalf of myself, the players, the manager and everybody at the Galaxy we’d like to send our love and thoughts to his wife, his children and his family. It is a sad time to lose a man like this.”
Former Celtic and Southampton manager Gordon Strachan was a midfield colleague of Speed’s in the successful Leeds team of the early 1990s and he admitted he was proud to have known the Wales coach.
“People have problems in footy where you have an indication that something is wrong, but this one is right out of the blue,” he said.
“I trained beside him for six years at Leeds and I was proud of Gary Speed every time I saw him play or train.
“I am going to miss his laugh. He had a child-like laugh. I’ll forget the goals but I will never forget his laugh. I said to Gary McAllister, ‘I’m never going to hear that again’.”
Former Wales and Leicester midfielder Robbie Savage, who played alongside Speed on international duty, was still coming to terms with the news 24 hours after his friend’s death.
“I’m looking at the headlines and I still can’t believe it. My captain, my hero, my mate is gone and I can’t understand why,” Savage wrote in the Daily Mirror.
“He had the world at his feet and the ironic thing is that he was the guy you would always go to if you ever had a problem.
“I’d grown very close to him over the last year or so. He’d always been a friend. But in that time we’d become best friends.
“There are people in football who will drop you like a stone when you retire but that’s not Gary. He had time for everyone, always.”
Tottenham winger Gareth Bale was part of the Wales squad revitalized by Speed in recent months and he hopes they can honor their manager by mounting a strong challenge to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
“It is a tragedy, everyone still can’t get their head around it and all our condolences go out to his family and his kids,” Bale said.
“We were on the up, he changed the way we play and the whole mentality of our game.
“It is a massive loss, but we will try and carry on the best we can in his honor.”