Everyone who has ever loved the game of football – and many people the world over who have never even watched the game – will shed a tear on Wednesday night when the Gary Speed Memorial Match pays tribute to a much loved footballing hero.
Three months have passed since the tragic loss of Gary Speed, and whether or not he intended to take his own life which we will never know for sure, the love for the proud Welsh manager and ex-player who graced the beautiful game at so many clubs is universal. He was one of the most popular players of his generation and appeared to have such a perfect life with so much to look forward to. The shocking news of his death when he was found hanging at his Cheshire home was simply incomprehensible.
It will forever be hard to accept such a loss at the age of 42 and it is easy to understand why Chris Coleman is still struggling to come to terms with the death of his old pal as he prepares for the first Wales match since becoming national team boss. Craig Bellamy will be the Welsh skipper.
Coleman plans to speak briefly to the players before the match – between Wales and Costa Rica – and then let Osian Roberts, a member of Speed’s coaching staff who is staying on under the new regime, take charge.
‘I’ll address [the squad] but it won’t be about me and where I want to take them. We’re only going to talk about Gary. We’ll probably watch a bit of footage of Speeds. And all I’ll be saying to them is: “You’re going to find it tough. We’re all here for you, the players, for this game. You and us are all here for Gary.”‘ Coleman told the Guardian
‘This is for Gary Speed. It’s not my first game. I just couldn’t do it. It’s for Gary and his family. And that’s all it’s about. I know people have said to me: ‘Well, Chris, you haven’t got many games to prepare for Belgium [in the first World Cup qualifier, in September].’ I say: “Listen, football, compared to how important this is … football is in the background.”‘
Gary made his international debut for Wales against Costa Rica at Ninian Park in Cardiff in May 1990 when Wales won by a goal to nil.
Gary Speed’s final public appearance
on BBC Football Focus
Stereophonics frontman, Kelly Jones, recorded a cover version of Andy Williams’ classic Welsh anthem “Too Good To Be True” in memory of the former Leeds United, Newcastle United, Sheffield United, Bolton Wanderers and Everton player.
The song became an adopted anthem of Welsh football fans during Speed’s playing career with Wales after being used in a BBC Wales promo for the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign. Speed, who was found dead at his home on 27 November 2011, was an integral part of the Wales squad that came so close to qualifying for the World Cup finals in the United States.