Southall seeks Speed tribute game
International friendly to honour Wales manager would be fitting, says legendary goalkeeper
Neville Southall, Wales's most capped player, last night led the calls for a memorial match as a tribute to Gary Speed, who was found hanged on Sunday. The Football Association of Wales (FAW) will discuss the manner in which to honour the former Wales manager at a meeting on Thursday.
Sources at the FAW revealed that a game at the Millennium Stadium would be one of the options on the table and, to this end, they will be interested to hear the opinion of Southall. The goalkeeper is the only Welshman, with 92 caps, to play more times for his national side than Speed (with 85) and, having also played with him at Everton, Southall believes all the stops should be pulled out.
"I'd love to see them play a game in an international week against players from his former clubs," said Southall yesterday. "Get some of the Newcastle lads down, some from Everton, Bolton, Sheffield United and Leeds."
An alternative would be for Wales to play a friendly in his name, and with no game yet arranged for the next available slot in February, there is an obvious opportunity. Yet Southall stressed the match, and the teams involved, should be high profile. "I'd like to see a proper footballing power turn up," said Southall. "And then, if they did put out a proper Wales team, it would be a proper event. It would be a sombre day but it would be a success. You have to remember everything he did up to the age of 42."
Added Southall: "That's what I'd like to see: to pack the Millennium so everyone can pay their respects. Also, it would be nice if they could name the Wales player-of-the-year award after him and a stand as well."
A minute's respect will be held at each of the Carling Cup quarter-finals tonight and tomorrow. The tributes will carry on into the weekend with Everton planning a minute's applause before Sunday's game against Stoke City. Scarves, flowers, flags and shirts have already been left at the Park End in memory of the former club captain and the club assured fans that "the gates will remain closed until further notice so that supporters can continue to visit Goodison Park to pay their respects and leave their own personal messages".
Yesterday, the tributes continued to pour in, including from Arsène Wenger, Gareth Bale and Sepp Blatter. The Arsenal manager labelled Speed "a great player" and made reference to his managerial potential. The FAW received written condolences from Blatter, the Fifa president, as well as from Michel Platini, his Uefa counterpart. The Welsh flag was flying at half-mast outside Fifa House in Zurich.
At the FAW's offices, a book of condolence was opened after the association was inundated with messages of support. Fans have been welcomed to the Cardiff HQ to leave their tributes and an area has also been put aside for the many floral tributes.
"My phone hasn't stopped with messages from everyone involved or not involved. It has touched everybody," said Jonathan Ford, the FAW chief executive, at a briefing at the team hotel in Cardiff. "Our door is open and we are trying to do everything we can at this terrible, terrible time. There will be, I am sure, a fitting tribute at some point in time but for now we are just looking at the short term and anything we can do for [Speed's widow] Louise and his two sons."
The inquest into Speed's death will be opened at Warrington Coroner's Court today at 3pm.
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