This Leeds United fan must pay tribute to Gary Speed, a man who gave me, and thousands of others, so much pleasure in his glorious spell at Elland Road, including the unforgettable First Division title winning season of 1992, the last before the Premier League.
Strachan, McAllister, Batty and Speed is a midfield that would grace any team today. Speed’s skill and longevity were matched only by a very rare quality in the bitchy world of football: no one has a bad word to say about him.
I did not know him personally, but I know someone who did. She, and their mutual friends, are devastated in a manner that speaks volumes. It’s a sad part of ageing; seeing one’s heroes die. It must be even tougher for older people, as life is filled with the deaths of those they have known, either personally, or admired from afar.
A very senior general told me he can hardly bear to look at the obituary pages of the Daily Telegraph for fear of reading about the death of another of his colleagues. An elderly aunt once explained that her “distraction” was down to a preference for her memories of people past over her life in the (then) present.
We all deal with the “passing” of those we love in different ways. A glimpse of this was evident in the horrible story of Nellie Geraghty, who died, aged 79, after being mugged for a handbag. For the past 17 years it had included among its contents the ashes of her late husband Frank. It would not be my way, but it was Nellie’s.
Who can know how Speed’s wife, Louise, and their sons will deal with both the fact of his death and its manner? My rather forlorn hope is that they will be given the privacy and space to be able to do so, in whichever way they see fit.