Some of the biggest names in British football have led the tributes to Gary Speed following the Wales’ manager’s death at the age of 42.
The former Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder was found dead yesterday morning at his home on the outskirts of Chester.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. Sources confirmed Speed was found hanged.
Born in Mancot in 1969 he turned out for Flintshire Schoolboys while attending Hawarden High School before making Yorkshire his home when Leeds came calling to herald the start of an illustrious career, which saw him become Wales’ most-capped outfield player with 85 appearances to his name.
Speed, who was awarded an MBE last year for services to football, had revitalised the fortunes of the national side since taking charge in December of 2010 and had recently overseen a run of four wins in five games, a streak that had taken them from a record low of 117th in the FIFA world rankings to as high as 45th.
Speed’s former Wales team-mate Ryan Giggs, who was linked with a role in the national set-up when Speed took charge, said he was devastated by his death.
The Manchester United midfielder said: “I am totally devastated. Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend.
“Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news. It goes without saying my thoughts are with his family at this tremendously sad time.”
Former England striker Alan Shearer, who played alongside Speed at Newcastle for six years between 1998 and 2004, formed a close friendship with the Welshman and said: “Gary was a magnificent person, bright, fun and a wonderful family man - he lit up every room he walked into.
“I am proud to have been his friend and will miss him dreadfully.”
Howard Wilkinson, who Speed played under when Leeds won the league title in 1992, described him as a “star in the true sense”.
Wilkinson told BBC Five Live: “The players I worked with represented all colours of the rainbow in terms of character but in Gary’s case he was a star in the true sense. For him - at 42 - to leave us is such a tragic loss. It’s unbelievable.”
There was also a tribute from Prime Minister David Cameron.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Gary Speed, who was greatly respected by football fans across the country both as a player and manager.
“The Prime Minister’s thoughts are with his family and friends on this very sad day for fans everywhere, especially in Wales.”
All of Speed’s former clubs spoke warmly of the midfielder as they gave their reaction to the news, while Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford and president Phil Pritchard paid tribute in an FAW statement.
Ford said: “I, and all of the football family of Wales, am devastated by the news of Gary’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this difficult time.”
Pritchard added: “I am completely shocked by this terrible news and my thoughts are with his family. We will do whatever we can as an association to help them in this difficult time.”
Wales captain Aaron Ramsey, given the armband by Speed earlier this year, wrote on Twitter: “I was given the tragic news this morning. To say I am devastated is an understatement. The world has lost a great football manager but even more sadly a great man. He will be missed by all.”