Speed a 'star in the true sense': Wilkinson

Updated: 28 November 2011 11:35 IST

Former Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson paid a moving tribute to Gary Speed on Sunday after the Wales manager was found dead aged 42 at his home on Sunday.

Speed a 'star in the true sense': Wilkinson

Cardiff:

Former Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson paid a moving tribute to Gary Speed on Sunday after the Wales manager was found dead aged 42 at his home on Sunday.


The Football Association of Wales (FAW) told the BBC it appears Speed killed himself.

Wilkinson was Speed's manager at Leeds where the 85-times capped midfielder won his only league title, the 1992 First Division which was the last edition before it became the Premiership.

Speed was one quarter of an outstanding midfield comprising Scots duo Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan and England international David Batty but Wilkinson said the Welshman was just that bit more special in both playing and personal terms.

"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," said Wilkinson.

"For him - at 42 - to leave us is such a tragic loss.

"He had a life of success to look forward to I'm sure."

Wilkinson said he still could not believe the news about Speed, whose final public appearance was on BBC's Football Focus on Saturday.

"It's unbelievable, I'm still struggling to get my head around it. I've known Gary since 1988 when I joined Leeds and I've rarely come across a better balanced, lovely, genuine person.

"He was a terrific player - not as gifted as some but he made the most of everything he had - worst of all for me I knew his parents, in particular his dad, his lovely wife and family - I just find it very very difficult to come to terms with it.

"We're not born footballers and like everyone else they had a talent and that became their job, but basically they are born people and subject to all the stress and strains and the good things that happen to one in life."

A minute's silence was observed in his memory at the Liberty Ground where Swansea were hosting Aston Villa in the Premier League match.

Speed's death was also received with shock by Wales First Minister Carwyn James.

"Our thoughts are with his family at what must be a very difficult time for them," said the Labour politician, who added he was devastated.

In a statement released by the FAW, chief executive Jonathan Ford paid tribute.

"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," said Ford.

Bobby Gould, who worked with Speed during his reign as Wales coach between 1995-1999, said he was a true professional.

"He would play anywhere for you - left back, left wing, centre of midfield, wide left. It's such a tragedy," Gould told BBC Radio Wales.

"People are just stunned. I saw John Hartson earlier and I said 'have you heard about Gary?' The big man just cried and cried. We cuddled each other.

"He's gone home (from the Liberty Ground where he was due to work as a pundit)."

England and Manchester United striker Michael Owen also paid tribute to Speed on Twitter.

"Just cannot believe the news regarding Gary Speed," he said.

"We waved at each other a couple of days ago dropping our kids off at school. I'm numb.

"He has died aged 42. So sad. He lived local to me and we knew his family. He leaves behind 2 sons. Tragic."

Robbie Savage, who played in midfield alongside Speed for Wales, said on his Twitter account that he was devastated by the news.

"The world has lost a great man in Gary Speed. I'm devastated spoke to him yesterday morning why! Why. Why.

"He was upbeat on phone yesterday we were laughing together, talking football and dancing. He was a great teammate and a great friend RIP"

Spain's World Cup winning midfielder Xabi Alonso, once of Liverpool and now with Real Madrid, also paid tribute.

"RIP Gary Speed. My first PL game was against him, he showed me in that game what british football is about."

It wasn't just former colleagues who posted their tributes as this moving one came from Huthaifa Ahmed.

"Gary Speeds autograph is the first and only autograph I have of someone famous. So proud. Rest In Peace."



Topics : Football
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