Tributes left at Gary Speed memorial


Staff reporter

TRIBUTES to former Wales manager Gary Speed were left at a memorial on the anniversary of his death.

Flowers and football scarves were laid in The Gary Speed MBE Playing Fields in Aston in Flintshire, close to his parents’ home.

A five-foot piece of Welsh slate and a bench mark the place where the former Hawarden High School pupil played football.

The ground, near to Speed’s parents home in Courtland Drive, was renamed in his honour in July.

Gary Edwards, who lives opposite the memorial, laid a scarf yesterday, a year after the midfielder was found hanged at his home near Chester.

Mr Edwards said: “The people of Deeside have finally got the opportunity to pay their respects.

“I was watching from the window and there was a steady stream of people all afternoon.

“One man came in a suit and put flowers down.

“It’s nice that local people have somewhere to remember him.”

Meanwhile, Wales boss Chris Coleman said Speed will never be forgotten.

The death of the former Wales, Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder prompted a huge outpouring of grief from within the game for a popular and respected figure.

Mancot-born Speed, 42, had overseen a run of four wins in five games as Wales boss, and his friend Coleman has faced the unenviable task of replacing him.

The former Fulham boss said Welsh football was still in shock at Speed’s untimely death.

“Forget the football; Gary was a great guy, different class,” said Coleman.

“I was lucky enough to have known him for a long time. He’s greatly missed – I still miss him. I will always miss him.

“I can’t believe it’s a year ago. You don’t ever forget something like that. I will probably never get over it. You try to deal with it as time goes on.

“But you don’t forget someone like Gary. We never will.”

Since Speed’s death, Wales have secured just one win, the World Cup qualifying defeat of Scotland last month.

And Coleman is more aware than most of the challenge his squad have faced in trying to get over the loss of their former manager.

He said: “I think people forget about the players. People just think they have to go out and get results.

“Of course, Gary’s death was bound to have affected them.

“Players hold a lot of their emotions in. The dressing room is not the place where you show emotion.

“They will have dealt with it in their own time and space. It’s been very hard for them and the players have handled it really well.

“You can’t prepare for something like that because you don’t think it will ever happen.”

Football Association of Wales (FAW) staff met yesterday to remember Speed at the governing body's headquarters in Cardiff.

Flowers were laid and an image of the player was lit up outside the building.

Coleman said: “It's about remembering someone we were very fond of. We will celebrate Gary's life, but I'm sure there will also be some tears.

“All of us have a relationship with him and all had the same opinion. He was a great guy.”

In a statement, FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford added: “We not only lost the national team manager, we also lost a friend and colleague. Our thoughts today, as they are every day, are with Gary's family – his wife Louise, sons Ed and Tom, his parents Roger and Carol and his sister Lesley.”

Coleman was speaking at a 24-hour cycle by former Wales midfielder Matt Jones.

The 32-year-old has completed half-marathons, the London marathon, a run up and down Mount Snowdon, and a sky-dive.

His efforts have raised thousands of pounds for charities supported by Speed, including the Bobby Robson Foundation, the John Hartson Foundation and the Spinal Injuries Association.

See full story in the Leader

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