Speed family give thanks for tributes

28 November 2011 07:16

The family of Gary Speed on Monday expressed their thanks for the overwhelming support they have received following the tragic death of the Wales football manager.

Speed, 42, was found dead at his home in Cheshire on Sunday, with police sources confirming the former Newcastle, Everton, Leeds and Bolton midfielder hanged himself in his garage.

The news stunned managers and players across the world, with David Beckham leading the tributes that quickly poured in for a man widely regarded as one of the good guys in a sport often fuelled by self-interest.

Speed's agent Hayden Evans, who was also best man at his wedding, spoke outside the family home, saying: "Gary's family would sincerely like to thank all the people that have sent messages of condolence and tributes in what is a very difficult time.

"We have been overwhelmed by the support and it really has helped.

"We would ask that the family are now given the respect of some privacy to just grieve on their own."

Cheshire Police said the inquest into Speed's death will be opened at Warrington Coroner's Court on Tuesday at 3pm.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) opened a book of condolence, as well as an online version, after being inundated with messages of support following Speed's death.

FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford said the organisation had received messages from UEFA and FIFA, with the Welsh flag at FIFA House in Zurich flying at half-mast. The Welsh flag at the home of the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay was also lowered as a mark of respect.

An emotional Ford said: "We have had hundreds of messages, my phone hasn't stopped with messages from everyone involved or not involved. It has touched everybody.

"We have had messages from family, friends have called, professional people have called, and they have all been heartfelt messages from people who may only have met Gary a couple of times, which showed the mark of the man.

"He was such a great person and he is such a loss.

"We have a book of condolence available at FAW headquarters and there is an area set aside for fans to leave flowers. Our door is open and we are trying to do everything we can at this terrible, terrible time."

There were emotional scences at Everton and Leeds, where fans paid their respects to Speed, who was married with two children, by laying shirts and scarves outside their club's stadiums.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given, a former Newcastle colleague of Speed's, had been reduced to tears during a minute's silence in Speed's memory before his club's Premier League match at Swansea on Sunday.

Former Manchester United midfielder Beckham saluted Speed's achievements, which included winning the old First Division title with Leeds in 1992 and reaching two FA Cup finals with Newcastle.

"I think he was an amazing, talented player, a player that had such a glittering career and just began a great career in management as well," Beckham told media in Jakarta, where his LA Galaxy team are playing this week.

"On behalf of myself, the players, the manager and everybody at the Galaxy we'd like to send our love and thoughts to his wife, his children and his family. It is a sad time to lose a man like this."

Former Celtic and Southampton manager Gordon Strachan was a midfield colleague of Speed's in the successful Leeds team of the early 1990s - they won the last ever First Division championship in 1992 - and he admitted he was proud to have known the Wales coach.

"People have problems in footy where you have an indication that something is wrong, but this one is right out of the blue," he said.

"I trained beside him for six years at Leeds and I was proud of Gary Speed every time I saw him play or train.

"I am going to miss his laugh. He had a child-like laugh. I'll forget the goals but I will never forget his laugh. I said to Gary McAllister, 'I'm never going to hear that again'."

Source: AFP

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