Wales night of sentiment for Speed


Gary Speed's teenaged sons will lead out Wales in the company of Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy tonight, after their grandfather has given the team-talk in the dressing room. For very obvious and understandable reasons this friendly will resemble no other as the country pays tribute to their deceased manager.

The Football Association of Wales are confident the Cardiff City Stadium will be full for the memorial match planned in the wake of Speed's suicide last November. With Ed, 14, and Tommy, 13, acting as mascots and Roger, Speed's mentor and father, addressing the side this is certain to be a night of high emotion. Costa Rica are the opponents, the first country Speed faced in his 85 caps.

After planning to play a backseat role in the stands, Chris Coleman, Speed's successor, will be in the dugout. His involvement is largely because of the exit of Speed's assistant, Raymond Verheijen, last Friday. The Dutchman accused the FAW of "political and destructive games" and so, whether unintentionally or not, ensured that a build-up which was supposed to concern one man would be marked by controversy as well as sentiment. There has also been intrigue as the question arose whether this will be Bellamy's last game for Wales. The 32-year-old has admitted he is considering his future.

Bellamy, who is extremely close to the Speed family, was handed the armband after Ramsey was forced to pull out with an ankle injury. Coleman said: "It is fitting. Aaron is our captain and he will be leading the team out with Gary's two sons, Tom and Ed, and Craig is captain on the night, which is right thing to do and it is also a nice gesture from Ashley Williams."

Williams is Wales's official vice-captain, but after talking to Coleman he agreed it was an appropriate role for Bellamy. Coleman said he was "hopeful and confident" Bellamy would make "a positive decision". Coleman revealed that he had had talks with him. Apparently these conversations went well, although the country is no nearer knowing if the left-winger will extend his international career into the qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup which begins in September. "I will do my best to keep Craig, because we are a better team and squad with him about," said Coleman.

However, he refused to discuss the Verheijen saga, and said: "I don't want the spotlight or headlines to take away from this match in Gary's memory."

In truth, many things are on hold until this tribute is out of the way. Monday was the first time the squad had been together since the 42-year-old's body was discovered in his garage. Coleman said: "The squad did come together for the first time and we watched a montage of Gary's moments as a player and a manager," said Coleman. "It was touching and needed to be in done."

Ramsey summed up the determined mood in the camp. "All the players want to give it their best to remember a great guy and a manager who started us playing really good football," said Ramsey. "I'm disappointed I can't be part of this game, but I really felt that wanted to be here."

The night will begin at 7pm with the Welsh band the Super Furry Animals, followed by the former Alarm frontman Mike Peters, who will sing the adopted Wales song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", and then, the bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, as well as the Risca Male Voice Choir. A minute's applause surrounding an image of Speed covering the centre circle will precede the game, together with the national anthem from Courtenay Hamilton.

At half-time more than 50 former Wales internationals who played with Speed will be introduced to the crowd, including Ryan Giggs – who is working for Sky Sports at the game – and Mark Hughes. From the stadium's largest hospitality box, Speed's family and friends will look on, including his widow, Louise.

And in the midst of all this, Wales will try to keep themselves on the good run of form which has yielded four wins from the last five.

"It's a friendly leading up to the big one against Belgium on 7 September, but there's no getting around it, there's a different slant to this game," Coleman said. "But I knew Gary as well as anybody and he would have wanted us to win. And to keep going where he left off."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power