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Gary Speed MBE (1969-2011)

It is rare that I find the death of a famous person shocking but when I heard of Gary Speed’s death today I was shocked.

A fine player for many clubs (he holds the appearances record for an outfield player in the Premiership) and a great player for his national team (but can I be forgiven for recalling mainly his time at Newcastle) and his current job as the manager Wales seemed to be going very well (Wales had leap-frogged about fifty places in the FIFA rankings). He was also by all accounts a thoroughly decent bloke. It would appear he hung himself.

I shall leave the final words to his Newcastle team-mate Alan Shearer.

Alan Shearer, who played alongside Speed at Newcastle for six years between 1998 and 2004, 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.”

If you have followed football at all over the last twenty years you will appreciate that from the notoriously taciturn Mr Shearer.

11 Comments

  1. CountingCats says:

    Wot?

    He died ten years ago?

  2. NickM says:

    Now sorted.

  3. Ashtrayhead says:

    One of the nicest tributes I’ve seen was from a Newcastle ballboy who said he was the only player who thanked him when he got the ball for him.

  4. Lynne says:

    I’m not into football and my first reaction was Gary who? However, dying so young and so suddenly is a tragedy no matter who you are. The fact that I’ve never heard of him tells me that he didn’t cause controversy on the pitch like some I won’t mention here. So, a sportsman as well as a gentleman then.

  5. Talwin says:

    I’m not a football fan but I had heard of Gary Speed. And it would appear that he was thought to be a thoroughly decent cove. But am I alone in finding a small inconsistency in Alan Shearer’s encomium when he says of Speed that he was ‘a wonderful family man’. Because, to me, that would have made a tad more sense if, no matter how desperate the situation for Speed (assuming there was a ‘situation’), he had not left his family presumably bereft and having to pick up whatever broken pieces he is found to have left behind.

  6. NickM says:

    Talwin,
    I appreciate your point but Shearer used the past tense. Perhaps that is why it is so shocking. I mean Speed was often on the back-pages but I don’t recall him on the front-pages and certainly never as “Troubled Gary Speed checks into the Priory”. That’s the thing. You know how the tabloids dig? In his long career in a tabloid “hit-zone” I don’t recall anything (unlike the likes of John Terry, Tony Adams, Paul Gascoigne, George Best…) there seemed nothing. The same can be said of everyone in Football who knew him (and that’s a lot) so it is a shock. Obviously there was something wrong but the folks who knew him didn’t seem to know it.

  7. JuliaM says:

    “But am I alone in finding a small inconsistency in Alan Shearer’s encomium when he says of Speed that he was ‘a wonderful family man’. Because, to me, that would have made a tad more sense if, no matter how desperate the situation for Speed (assuming there was a ’situation’), he had not left his family presumably bereft and having to pick up whatever broken pieces he is found to have left behind.”

    You’re not alone.

    And doing it in the house where his children grew up (thus presumably irrevocably tainting it for his family) seems a peculiarly spiteful, passive-aggressive act.

    ” That’s the thing. You know how the tabloids dig? In his long career in a tabloid “hit-zone” I don’t recall anything (unlike the likes of John Terry, Tony Adams, Paul Gascoigne, George Best…) there seemed nothing.”

    Perhaps something was about to come out?

  8. Johnathan Pearce says:

    This is awful news. I dread to think what led a man who, by all accounts, was a decent and friendly person.

    I winced at the fact that he he leaves a wife and two children behind. That is always the worst thing about stuff like this.

    Fine words, NickM. He was a great player.

  9. NickM says:

    Julia,
    I agree but I still think the reaction of his friends seems natural given what we assume they knew.

    “Perhaps something was about to come out?”

    Maybe. Or maybe not. But the thing with skeletons in the closet is that’s where they are until they do come out. So were Speed’s mates wrong? Time will tell. Maybe it’s best we remember Gary Speed as a footballer.

    I tend to take issue with the idea of suicide as selfish because whilst it can be it tends to be more solipsistic and that is not entirely the same thing.

  10. Talwin says:

    JuliaM bravely makes a point that I skipped over. Because, while I know that to find a loved one ‘asleep’ having, for example, over-dosed would be tragic enough, to expose friends or, God help us, family to a hanging is, to my mind, under any circumstances, pretty much the ultimate, selfish ghastliness.

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