National Captain, National Coach, National Hero

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7.08am, November 27 2011 – Cheshire Police were informed of a sudden death early on Sunday morning in Huntington, Cheshire. Gary Speed had committed suicide by hanging, with no present suspicious circumstances.

Gary Speed, the Welsh national football coach and former captain had died, aged just 42. The reverberations were felt throughout British football on Sunday, condolences sent from across the isles, from figureheads in sport, politics and celebrity.

A minute’s silence was held at Anfield, and turned to applause at the Liberty Stadium, as Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given was seen in tears before kick-off mourning his former teammate.

Speed’s death was as sudden as it was tragic, leaving close friend Ryan Giggs speechless. Current Wales captain Craig Bellamy requested no part in Liverpool’s fixture against Manchester City and a tear was bought  to the stern eyes of Robbie Savage, live on BBC News.

Savage had spoken to the Wales head coach the night before, hours after he had appeared on Football Focus, claiming he was in the “highest spirits.”

Speed began his career at Leeds, featuring in the last squad to win the Football League before the implementation of the Premier League. He left the Yorkshire side after 312 appearances, before playing for Everton and Newcastle. Speed famously became the first player to reach 500 Premier League appearances during his spell at Bolton.

After captaining his country 44 times, Speed hung up his international boots after scoring in a World Cup qualifying defeat to Poland in October 2004. He took over as Sheffield United manager in October 2010 but left the post just two months later, to fill the vacant Wales national coach role.

Since then, the national side has seen an outstanding leap in form, jumping to 45th in the FIFA rankings after victories against Switzerland, Montenegro and Bulgaria.

His style of football was reflected in his role as manager: toughing out for the ball every opportunity he received, and producing the results whatever it took. Speed was a true ambassador for the sport and was rewarded with an MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours.

A proud Welshman that made men proud to be Welsh, myself included, has left many friends, teammates, fans and followers behind. Football and Wales are in mourning, losing a national great, bright coach and magnificent footballing man.

To his wife, children, friends and family we send our deepest sympathies.

Gorffwys mewn tangnefedd…

Rest in Peace, Gary Speed…

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