The death of Welsh national manager Gary Speed left the football world baffled and devastated yesterday.
Gary Speed, 42, was found hanged by his wife, according to the Times, just after 7:00 a.m. GMT in the garage of their $2.3 million mansion. They have together two teenage sons.
Just few hours earlier, Gary Speed had appeared happy and optimistic on BBC1’s Football Focus programme.
The Welsh manager talked enthusiastically about his team’s improving fortunes and his hopes for success in World Cup qualifying matches next year.
Presenter Dan Walker, who spent four hours on and off camera with Gary Speed, said: “He was as bubbly as I’ve known him. He was talking about his kids, how they were really coming on, and talking about playing golf next week.
“Even small things like how he’d just got into Twitter. It’s awful to think someone who was so gifted and so well liked with the rest of his life to look forward to have been cruelly removed. He was in such a good mood about the show and said he’d love to come back before Christmas.”
The suspected suicideof Gary Speed at the family home in Huntington, on the outskirts of Chester, was reported to police just after 7:00 a.m. Police said there were “no suspicious circumstances”.
Officers were waiting last night to interview Gary Speed’s widow, Louise, 40, who was a constant figure of support throughout his career.
A friend described Gary Speed as a “completely devoted dad” to sons Ed, 14, and Tommy, 13. Both are promising sportsmen. Ed is a footballer and Tommy a keen boxer.
Robbie Savage, who played alongside Gary Speed for Wales, said his former teammate had been ribbing him on Saturday about his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Robbie Savage.
“He was my mate and he’s gone. I’ve got very close to Gary in the last few years – the guy is a trooper, he’s left two gorgeous kids behind and a beautiful wife. He had everything.
“I spoke to him yesterday and we were laughing and joking – he was saying make sure you don’t get a (mark of) two off Craig (Revel Horwood, the Strictly judge) tonight. That’s what Gary’s like – he always thinks about other people.
“As my captain when I was a young boy in the squad, he’d come to me and I could go to him with my problems.”
Gary Speed’s former Newcastle United teammate Shay Given, who attended a charity fundraising fashion event with him in May, was seen in floods of tears on television as a minute’s silence was held at Swansea City’s match against Given’s team Aston Villa.
Thousands of fans sang Welsh hymns and joined in the chant “there’s only one Gary Speed”.
At Anfield, Liverpool’s Welsh star Craig Bellamy asked not to play against Manchester City after hearing the news.
Gary Speed, who was awarded an MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours, retired from playing only last year after winning 85 caps for his country.
He represented Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle and Bolton Wanderers during his long career.
Both Gary Speed’s parents were from Chester but he was born in the Welsh border town of Mancot and was always proud to represent his country. His father Roger played football for Wrexham before returning to his trade as a joiner.
Gary Speed made his league debut for Leeds United in May 1989 and was a member of the team which went on to win the league title in 1992.
Despite having limited experience as a manager, Gary Speed’s impact on the Welsh national team had been dramatic.
He had a keen interest in sports psychology and after taking over from John Toshack a year ago was able to get the best out of young players such as Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Tottenham’s Gareth Bale.