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Football Mourns the Loss of a Welsh Wizard

By Luke   O'Farrell  ::  27/11/2011   8 Comments (»Last) I have taken a break from my usual match report, in light of the shocking news about Gary Speed. I have instead tried to write a fitting tribute, to the man, through the eyes of an Evertonian.

News broke on Sunday morning that Wales?s manager and ex-footballer, Gary Speed had died. Police arrived at Speed?s Chester residence, shortly after 7am today. The Police officers found his body and a statement followed, announcing that there were ?no suspicious circumstances?.

Tributes flooded in from friends, former managers, ex-team mates, other sports stars, politicians, organisations, governing bodies and fans of his clubs.

Craig Bellamy was withdrawn from the Liverpool team; Speed was a close friend of the Welsh international. The tributes during the Swansea ? Aston Villa game reduced Shay Given, a former team-mate, to tears. Xabi Alonso used Twitter to express that Speed taught him what English football was all about; Alonso made his Liverpool début against Speed?s Bolton in 2004.

Close friend Robbie Savage, who played with Speed for Wales, was visibly devastated during a BBC interview. Everton fans left tributes outside Goodison Park throughout the day; with fans tying scarves and shirts to railings outside Goodison Park.

During his time at Newcastle United, Bobby Robson referred to him as ?a blue chip player?. This was a tribute to both Speed?s skill as a player and a person.

Speed arrived at Goodison Park from Leeds United in 1996 for a fee of £3.5million and quickly became a fan favourite, scoring against Newcastle on his Everton début. He ended his first season as the club?s Player of the Year and tied with Duncan Ferguson as the club?s top scorer.

Speed was living the dream... playing for his boyhood club. This was clear in an interview he gave after signing. He spoke of his love of Everton, ?This was always my club?. He used to come over, from Wales, to watch his beloved Blues from the age of 12 onwards. Speed?s longing ambition was to pull on that famous Everton shirt, ?My dream was to play for the club and it?s never really faded?.

At the start of the 1997-98 season, which was also his last at the club, Howard Kendall made Speed the club captain. An honour that Speed treasured, ?When Howard Kendall told me I would be captain, it is something that will live with me forever.? In comparison to his spells at Leeds, Newcastle and Bolton, Gary Speed?s stint at Everton was short-lived. Speed?s departure, after just two seasons, was acrimonious and threatened to overshadow his contributions on the pitch.

The class of the man was abundantly clear, after his move away from his boyhood team, ?You know why I?m leaving, but I can?t explain myself publicly because it would damage the good name of Everton Football Club and I?m not prepared to do that?. Players often throw their toys out the pram, upon leaving a team; Speed left with his head held high and his dignity firmly intact.

His League title win with Leeds in the 1991-92 season remained his sole major honour; a shame for such a talented player who was well-respected, both on and off the pitch. He was part of the Leeds side that won the Charity Shield at the start of the 1992-93. Speed received recognition from his peers, that very season, making it into the PFA Team of the Year.

Gary Speed scored an impressive hat-trick for Everton in a 7-1 demolition of Southampton during his first season at the club. This was to be his only hat-trick in his long and distinguished career. Knowing he scored his only career hat-trick in an Everton shirt, is something that should fill all Evertonians with immense pride.

He achieved a major milestone during his stint at Bolton. In the 2003-04 season, he became the first player to make 500 Premier League appearances; testament to his dedication, fitness and ability. He ended his career having made a staggering 677 appearances whilst contributing an impressive 103 goals. He ended his international career with 85 caps making him Wales?s most capped outfield player; only Neville Southall has more caps.

The world of football has lost one of its nicest characters, the fans of his teams have lost a modern-day legend, and his family have lost something irreplaceable; a father and a husband. Throughout the coming days and weeks, grounds and fans across the country will pay their respects to one of football?s nice guys.

Everton host Stoke this Sunday and the fans will pay their respects to one of their own. Whether it is through silence, applause, or both, Evertonians will give Speedo the send-off he deserves.

Gary Speed, 8 September 1969 ? 27 November 2011, Rest in Peace.

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Reader Comments

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Peter Barry
1   Posted 28/11/2011 at 05:18:17

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I remember being bemused when Gary was sold to Newcastle. Just shows the mistake Everton made to allow an alcoholic Kendall to become manager again.
Vijay Nair
2   Posted 28/11/2011 at 07:04:47

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RIP Gary Speed
Darren Reeves
3   Posted 28/11/2011 at 10:25:28

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I actually thought he would return to manage us one day!!!

RIP Gary
Trevor Lynes
4   Posted 28/11/2011 at 10:26:44

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Great article and says it all. It is so poignant that so many players and managers have come out and praised the man and not just the player that it speaks volumes of the obvious class person he was.

He lived quite near me and I know that he remained friends with his childhood fellow players. He was an Evertonian from childhood, as was Rooney, and a few other players who went across the park... mainly because our scouts missed them!!!

I never criticised him when he left, nor did I criticise Rooney when he left. Both had their reasons and it's not for the fans to judge because the facts are never revealed honestly. All I can say is God Bless and strength to Gary's family.
Liam Reilly
5   Posted 28/11/2011 at 12:11:37

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The club should do the honorable thing and clear the man's name during his departure from the club. Wouldn't hold my breath though.

Terrible news, not ashamed to say I shed a tear myself watching the Swansea-Villa pre-match minute of appreciation.
Michael Brien
6   Posted 28/11/2011 at 14:02:55

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Whenever I saw Gary Speed play after he left Everton, it greatly saddened me. He was the type of player that we should have been looking to build a team around. When we signed him, it looked like the ideal move for both player and club; he was coming to his boyhood favourites ? a dream move so to speak.

We will probably never know the true reasons for his departure and I recall now with great sadness his return to Goodison with Newcastle in Feb 1998 ? he was given a bad reception by some Evertonians. I felt very uncomforable at that match and over the years I wished that Gary Speed would have felt able to give his side of the story. I gather that he had signed a confidentiality clause. I think it speaks volumes for the integrity of the man that he didn't break silence on this subject. Perhaps to have made the full truth would have damaged the club.

It is fair to say I believe in the matter of Gary Speed's transfer to Newcastle, Everton FC were less than honourable in their actions. As Liam has suggested the club should now put the record straight.
Norman Merrill
7   Posted 28/11/2011 at 14:13:24

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Well said Trevor Lynes.
Gary was a credit to football, and a very passionate Evertonian.
James Flynn
8   Posted 28/11/2011 at 16:10:34

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Was there a song you all would sing for him when he was at EFC? That would be nice.

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