Family, friends and fans join in tribute to Gary Speed
A ceremony at Leeds United's ground and a record by Stereophonics frontman honour the Wales manager
The family of the late Wales manager Gary Speed watched as fans, friends and admirers paid their respects to the footballer. His widow, Louise, 40, and sons Edward, 14 and Thomas, 13, were in the stands at Leeds United's Elland Road ground yesterday as a minute's applause was given in his memory.
Tributes came from beyond the sporting world over the weekend. Kelly Jones (pictured right), singer-songwriter of the Stereophonics, showed his appreciation by recording an acoustic version of a popular Welsh football terraces song to honour Speed's career. The Frankie Valli classic "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" was aired on Friday night on BBC Wales. It became an anthem of Welsh football fans after it was used for the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign during Speed's playing career.
The 42-year-old former Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle United midfielder was found hanged at his Cheshire home by his wife a week ago. Former Leeds team-mates Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister and David Batty laid a wreath on the Leeds pitch before yesterday's game against Millwall. The team wore black armbands with "Speed 11" – his old number.
Before the match, the Leeds manager, Simon Grayson, wrote on the club's website: "This is the place where Gary started his career, and he played many games here, not just in senior football, but for the reserves and the juniors as well. It's going to be a very, very poignant day."
Outside the stand, hundreds of fans gathered by the shrine that has built up in the past seven days, covered in shirts, scarves and hand-written messages of condolence. A Leeds fan, Stuart Wright, said yesterday: "It's just so sad. Everyone wants to be here and pay tribute to a true gentleman of the game."
Mr Speed's widow inspected the masses of tributes to her husband. Accompanied by her relatives, she spent about 15 minutes looking at the thousands of scarves, shirts and photographs fans had left.
A minute's tribute was held at every Premiership fixture yesterday, including at St James' Park, where Newcastle fans led the applause before kick-off. There was also silence, a mark of respect, before the Wales-Australia rugby game in Cardiff.
Last week, politicians also acknowledged Speed's death. A minute's silence was held at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, and at Westminster, the Prime Minister offered a message of support: "I know he meant an enormous amount to people, and people feel very, very sad on his behalf and on his family's behalf."
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