Football world mourns Gary Speed

 

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The football world was in mourning tonight after popular Wales manager Gary Speed was found hanged at his home at the age of 42.

The death of the former Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle United midfielder shocked players and fans and prompted a flood of tributes from a host of public figures, including Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cheshire Police confirmed that the body of the father-of-two was discovered where he lived on the outskirts of Chester and said there were "no suspicious circumstances".

Sources said he was found hanged.

A police spokeswoman said: "At 7.08am today, Cheshire Police was informed of a sudden death at an address in Huntington, Chester.

"Officers went to the scene where a 42-year-old man was found dead. The next of kin have been informed and have confirmed the identity of the man as Gary Speed.

"There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. The family have requested that they are left in peace to grieve at this difficult time."

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) announced Speed's death on its website and expressed its condolences to his relatives.

It said in a statement: "The Football Association of Wales are sad to announce the death of the national team manager Gary Speed.

"We extend our sympathies and condolences to the family. We ask that everyone respects the family's privacy at this very sad time."

The FAW paid tribute to Speed as a "versatile" player who had enjoyed an "exemplary" career.

"All at the FAW admired Gary's passion for the job and task of taking the team back up the European and World rankings," its statement said.

"With the qualifying dates for the next World Cup group agreed only last week in Brussels, there was much to look forward to over the next few years.

"That this tragedy should have overtaken someone so young and talented is a huge loss not only for his family and friends but a nation as a whole."

Speed, whose career on the pitch also included stints at Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United, was appointed manager of Wales in December 2010 after retiring as a player in May last year.

He took charge of Wales for the first time in February, with his last game as manager on November 12 when the team won 4-1 in a friendly against Norway.

Yesterday afternoon, he appeared on BBC1's Football Focus show, and his friend and former footballer Robbie Savage said he had last spoken to him yesterday too.

"I'll miss him so much," he wrote in a heartfelt message on Twitter.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron was "deeply saddened" to hear of the death of Speed, who was "greatly respected by football fans across the country both as a player and manager".

A spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's thoughts are with his family and friends on this very sad day for fans everywhere, especially in Wales."

Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, described it as "devastating news" and said: "I'm deeply saddened to hear about the death of Gary Speed."

He added: "Our thoughts are with his family at what must be a very difficult time for them."

Former Wales teammate and Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs said he too was "totally devastated".

He added: "Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a teammate and friend.

"Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news."

Awarded the MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for his services to football, Speed leaves a wife, Louise, and two sons, Ed and Tommy.

A family tribute will be released at a later date, police said.

After the news of his death broke, there was a minute's applause at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea as a mark of respect before today's match between Swansea and Aston Villa.

Fans had been asked to "stand and remember Gary Speed with a minute's silence" but instead burst into applause to pay their respects.

Speed's next-door neighbour in the village of Huntington meanwhile said she was "absolutely stunned" to hear of his death.

The elderly woman, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's unbelievable isn't it? Just like the whole of the country I am absolutely stunned.

"I learned of the news on the television this morning. I could not believe it. He was a great guy. A lovely family man.

"He had lived here for about three or four years with his wife and two boys. I knew he was always very passionate about football. He would often talk about the game with my husband outside.

"But I can't say why this has happened. There's nothing more I can add about this."

PA

 

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