Four years ago today, the footballing world lost one of its greatest pros with the death of Gary Speed. To mark his memory and to pay tribute to one of the best and one of my favourite players I've seen in the white shirt of Bolton Wanderers, I wanted to share with you the below blog I wrote four years ago.
A tribute to a legend - RIP Gary Speed
Tributes have been flowing in from the footballing world at the sad news of the death of former Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United player Gary Speed on Sunday morning.
Gary Speed was one of my favourite players through my 20ish years of being a Bolton Wanderers supporter, only bettered by Jay-Jay Okocha – which is no mean feat.
The man, quite simply, was a legend. A true professional in a modern era of overpaid, arrogant footballers who take the dream job their ability allows them for granted, Gary Speed gave footballers the world over a good name.
The public outpouring of emotion from his fellow footballers including international teammates like Ryan Giggs, Robbie Savage and John Hartson, club colleagues like Shay Given and Gordon Strachan, and even internationals like Xabi Alonso are testament to the fact that Gary Speed was a footballing great. His premature death, at the age of just 42, will be tough to take for many people for a long time to come.
Watching him line-up at the Reebok Stadium, despite many thinking his best days may have been behind him when he signed at the age of 34, you always knew what you were going to get from Gary Speed. His hard work ethic, skill on the ball, outstanding vision and constant goal-threat that made him one of the Premier League’s best players until his retirement. These qualities were the hallmarks of a player that wore his heart on his sleeve and led the Bolton side by example.
Speed remains Wales’ highest capped outfield player and the work he was doing as national manager in building a team in his own image was testament to his greatness. I personally hope his loss will inspire the Welsh team to continue playing in his honour and fulfil the promise his young side was beginning to show.
When I heard the news on Sunday morning I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure I've ever been upset about the loss of someone I don’t know, which I think is a feeling a lot of people shared about Gary Speed. His attitude on and off the pitch simply made him impossible not to like and admire, no matter which football team you support.
The loss of Gary Speed is not only the loss of a great football player, but the loss of a great man who will be sorely missed by many.
RIP Gary Speed.