Monday, 28 November 2011

RIP Gary Speed - 8 September 1969 – 27 November 2011

It was understandably difficult to get excited about football after the breaking news on Sunday morning that Wales manager Gary Speed had been found dead after a suspected suicide at his home in Cheshire.

I was numbed. Speed is one those players that has just always seemed to be etched into the memory of my football watching life. His fellow Welshman Ryan Giggs is probably the only other player that springs to mind when I think of a player with such a prolonged career in the English top flight in my lifetime. Speed may not have had a career awash with trophies and honours but was hands down, one of the Premier League's most consistent performers in his midfield role and a key player in any team he played for. Fans of Leeds, Everton, Newcastle and Bolton would all attest to this. Such was his importance, Speed currently holds the record for most appearances for an outfield player in the league with some 535 games under his belt. A short spell at Sheffield United as player and manager brought the curtain down on fine club career before he was given the opportunity to manage his country.

Death is always a sad thing but made worse when it happens prematurely. 42 is no age for anyone to die and the whole situation is made more perplexing by to the unsavory manner of Speed's passing. The general reaction has been one of bemusement. One can only speculate as to what drives a man to take his own life. Speed had a wife, two children and his career as manager of Wales seemed to be going from strength to strength. It's only natural that people will be asking "why?".

The general feeling from all the tributes is one of shock. The outpouring of emotion within football for a popular and respected friend/colleague would suggest that this fatal tragic act was out of character. As has been pointed out, Speed seemed 'normal' when he appeared the BBC's Football Focus the very same morning of the day he died. Again it would be wrong to speculate about his health and/or his private life and his family ought to be afforded the respect they deserve at this most awful of times.

All too often in the modern game we rue the disconnect between players and fans. As far as we're concerned, these 'greedy' millionaires no longer understand the 'man in the street'. Is this detachment not a two-way problem? When we go to matches, sit in pubs or take to the Internet to launch tirades of abuse, we almost forget that they are human beings with the same feelings, insecurities and problems as you and I. Granted, Speed wasn't the kind of player that courted controversy or even incurred the wrath of vitriolic fans but his death shows he was just as vulnerable as anybody to the trials and tribulations of life. When we work ourselves up into a frenzy and lose our shit over incorrect offsides and disallowed goals or whatever, we'd do well to remember that the game is simply that, a game. A sentiment not lost on the Swansea and Villa fans who saw their respective teams play on through difficult circumstances.

Whatever the reasons behind this tragedy, it has been a sad, sad weekend in British football.


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