'Suicide' of Gary Speed sends sport into mourning

At the age of just 42, Wales football manager and former player discovered hanging at his home

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The Independent Online

During a television appearance on Saturday, Wales manager Gary Speed spoke of his hopes for the future of his team, and later made plans to play golf with friends.

Colleagues noticed nothing unusual in the behaviour of a man who, over a career spanning two decades, had found remarkable success on and off the pitch.

But the next day, British football was mourning the loss of one of its brightest talents following his death at the age of 42. The former Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle and Bolton player is believed to have taken his own life early yesterday morning at his home near Chester. Police were called to an address in Huntington in Cheshire after an emergency call at 7.08am. There they found Speed's body. He is reported to have hung himself. A police statement said: "There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death."

He leaves a wife and two young sons.

Ryan Giggs, the Manchester United winger who played alongside Gary Speed for Wales, led a succession of tributes. He said: "I am totally devastated. Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend. Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news. It goes without saying my thoughts are with his family."

Manchester United's Michael Owen, a near neighbour of the Wales manager, said via Twitter: "Just cannot believe the news regarding Gary Speed. We waved at each other a couple of days ago dropping our kids off at school. I'm numb."

At the Liberty Stadium where Swansea hosted Aston Villa yesterday afternoon, a minute's silence transformed into applause in Gary Speed's honour with supporters of both teams chanting his name.

Shay Given, the Aston Villa goalkeeper and a team-mate of Gary Speed's at Newcastle United, was in tears. Craig Bellamy was withdrawn from Liverpool's match against Manchester City. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said: "There's no way that a game of football is more important than grieving."

A dynamic midfielder, Gary Speed was in the Leeds side that won the last First Division Championship in 1992. He later played for Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton and Sheffield United, where he played his final game last year.

Only Ryan Giggs and David James, the former England goalkeeper, have made more Premier League appearances than his 535. He was capped 85 times for Wales, a record for an outfield player, rarely missing a match in an age when it is common for top players from lesser nations to choose their games.

After a brief spell as manager of Sheffield United, he became manager of Wales last December. Under Gary Speed's leadership a young side rose from 117 in the world rankings to 45.

After a long and successful playing career, Gary Speed had only been in charge of the Wales team for 10 matches but was proving to be a manager of promise. He was interviewed by the BBC on Saturday and spoke of the footballing challenges facing Wales. Last week he was in Brussels for a meeting on the 2014 World Cup campaign and lunched with Craig Levein, his Scotland counterpart, who said the Wales manager was "laughing and joking".

His death prompted a flood of tributes from public figures, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Gary Speed's playing career spanned the start of the Premier League and the arrival of Sky cash that transformed the sport and the rewards available.

Howard Wilkinson, his manager at Leeds United, said: "I've met a lot of people in my time, a lot of sportsmen. Gary had none of those things which we associate with sportsmen. He was ordinary as a bloke, very nice, very genuine, very honest, very hardworking."