Former Blue Gary Speed dies aged 42

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Gary Speed © Trinity Mirror

Football fans have paid tribute to former Everton captain Gary Speed after he was found dead at his home at the weekend.

The gates of Goodison Park were adorned with shirts, scarves and messages of condolence after the 42-year-old apparently took his own life in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The circumstances surrounding Speed’s death are still unknown, but the tragic event has sent shockwaves throughout the world of football.

The former Wales manager was on live television just hours before he died as a guest on BBC Sport’s Football Focus. Presenter of the show, Dan Walker, tweeted upon hearing Speed was dead, saying: “Gary was full of life yesterday talking about his kids, bright future with Wales, twitter, golf. Can’t get my head round it. So sad.”

After a glorious career in football, Speed had a countless number of friends within the game. Players from both Swansea and Aston Villa were visibly distraught by the news before they were due to play just several hours after his death.

Speed began his professional career at Leeds in 1988 and quickly became a key member of the side that would go on to win the Football League First Division title in 1992.

As a boyhood Evertonian, the midfielder would get his dream move to Goodison Park in 1996, joining the Blues for £3.5 million from Leeds. He made an instant impact for the club, scoring on his debut against Newcastle in Everton’s first game of the season.

Speed went on to score his only career hat-trick in the same season, in a 7-1 rout of Southampton, and finished the 1996/97 campaign as Everton’s joint top goalscorer.

Howard Kendall replaced Joe Royle as Everton manager in the summer of 1997 and made Speed club captain in the process. But the relationship between the two began to falter and resulted in the Welsh International moving to Newcastle in January 1998.

Controversy and speculation has always surrounded Speed’s departure from Merseyside, but perhaps a sign of his professionalism could be seen in his words when he left, he said: “You know why I’m leaving, but I can’t explain myself publicly because it would damage the good name of Everton Football Club and I’m not prepared to do that.”

Success as a manager

A glorious playing career in football saw Speed also go on to play for Bolton and Sheffield United, with whom he would begin his career as a manager. Always regarded as the model professional, Speed was still playing in the Premier League at the age of 38 eventually retiring at 40.

After a brief stint in charge at Sheffield United, Speed became manager of Wales in December 2010, succeeding John Toshack.

Speed’s first few games in charge tested his resilience as they struggled for form in friendlies and Euro 2012 qualifiers. But he would quickly stamp his mark on the side, naming youngster Aaron Ramsey as captain and calling up younger players, resulting in Wales winning their last four matches.

Another of Speed’s former team mates and friends Robbie Savage also spoke of his sadness on Twitter, he said: “The world has lost a great man in Gary Speed. I’m devastated…I’ll miss him so much.”

Everton have announced that former team-mates of Gary Speed who played alongside him between 1996 and 1998 will return to Goodison Park on Sunday to attend the game against Stoke.

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