Family 'overwhelmed' by tributes to Gary Speed

 

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The Independent Online

The family of Gary Speed said they were "overwhelmed by the support" they had received following the Wales manager's death yesterday.

Speed's agent Hayden Evans - who was also the best man at Speed's wedding - this afternoon spoke outside the family home in Cheshire, where his body was found yesterday morning. Sources confirmed the 42-year-old Speed was found hanged.

Tributes have poured in for the former Wales, Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder from across the sporting and political world, and Evans said today: "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 today the inquest into Speed's death will be opened at Warrington Coroner's Court tomorrow at 3pm.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) have opened a book of condolence after being inundated with messages of support following Speed's death.

Fans will be able to go to the FAW headquarters in Cardiff to leave their tributes.

FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford said that the organisation had received messages from UEFA and FIFA, with the Welsh flag at FIFA House in Zurich flying at half-mast.

A visibly 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."

Ford also said the FAW, whose own flag is at half-mast at the national side's former Vale Resort base in Hensol, would look to provide a tribute for the late Wales manager.

"There will be, I am sure, a fitting tribute at some point in time but for now we are just looking in the short term and anything we can do for (Speed's widow) Louise and the boys," he said.

Speed's former Leeds team-mate Gary McAllister admitted the news of his death "shook him to the bones" yesterday.

McAllister was part of the Leeds team alongside Speed which won the First Division title in 1992 and was a pundit alongside the Welshman on the BBC's Football Focus programme on Saturday afternoon.

"Alan Shearer broke the news to me (yesterday) and it turned me to jelly," McAllister told Sky Sports News.

"I couldn't believe what he was saying. It shook me to the bones, I was in shock for most of the day.

"Twenty minutes before we went on air on Saturday, he was the normal Gary Speed to me. He was very excited about the prospects of the Welsh national team and was upbeat, looking class, immaculately presented. He was a movie star in my eyes.

"There were no signs, nothing to suggest he was troubled. He looked well and things are going well for him at the moment. I could never have thought that 10-12 hours after I saw him I'd be getting that news. It's a nightmare."

Tottenham winger Gareth Bale, one of the brightest talents in the exciting young Wales side being built by Speed, told www.tottenhamhotspur.com: "It was a massive shock, I don't think anybody ever thought anything like this would happen.

"Everyone is devastated and it is a massive loss to everyone in football.

"It is a tragedy, everyone still can't get their head around it and all our condolences go out to his family and his kids. It is a hard time."

Robin McBryde, one of the assistant coaches of the Wales rugby union side, also paid a warm tribute to his countryman.

"He was someone whose work we admired from afar, both as a player and as a coach. It's a big loss," he said.

"You hear all the plaudits he is getting from fellow players and coaches who have worked with him.

"He is a loss not only to football, but as a man as well off the pitch. That really comes across."

PA

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