Monday, 28 November 2011

Gary Speed - A Sad Loss

It's not everyday that the sudden death of a 42 year old family man makes the UK national news as the leading headline.  It's not everyday that professional footballers and managers past and present queue up to speak so emotionally about one of there own.  It's not everyday that a man with the reputation of Gary Speed (apparently) chooses to end his own life.

As a young boy, born and bred in Cardiff, I committed myself emotionally to the Welsh football team of which Gary Speed was an important part in the early 90's.  This commitment left me raw and hurting when that side failed to reach the 1994 World Cup, so much so that my subsequent interest in Wales has never since risen much beyond indifference.

Despite the intense disappointment that must've been felt within the Wales camp after that failure, Gary Speed's commitment to Wales - through thick and thin - never wavered.  He went on to represent his country 85 times, an incredible 44 occasions as captain.  Despite my own interest in Wales being diminished, I followed the Premier League very closely throughout Speed's career and I can honestly say that I do not recall him making a single mistake.  Not one.

Now of course, I never had the pleasure of meeting the man but I know he played 500 Premiership games quicker than anyone else, scored in every Premier League season up to 2007 and recently managed Wales to rise 40 places in the FIFA world rankings. He was a solid, dependable winner and never gave less than 100%.

Speed had a young family with his wife in Cheshire; and according to the floods of tributes from so many involved in football was genuinely loved by almost everyone he ever met.

So here we have a young, healthy, wealthy and successful man, whose burgeoning managerial career was beginning to show real promise, immensely popular among his peers and beloved and respected by tribes of opposition supporters who should normally despise him.  Yet it appears that on Sunday morning he took his own life. Why?

Gary Speed was a cracking footballer; not a world beater or game changer - but a workhorse.  I don't think anyone would be offended or slighted by that statement.  He was not the type of player whose death would normally spark such a media furore, this is more about the type of man he was.  The spotlight shines so brightly on him at this time, I think, because he was so loved by those who knew him and his example shows us that no-one is safe from the perils of depression, that life is a precious and fragile thing and that we should all cherish every single moment.

Thank you for not giving up on Wales when so many did Gary Speed.  Thank you for giving all you had in everything you did.  Perhaps you just had nothing left to give, but whatever the reason - Rest In Peace.