Gary Speed: Friends' shock over Wales manager's death

Gary Speed and wife Louise
Image caption Gary Speed leaves a wife, Louise, and two children

Friends and colleagues say they cannot understand events leading to the death of Wales manager Gary Speed at 42.

David Beckham joined tributes to "an amazing, talented player" who was found dead at home on Sunday. It is understood he was found hanged.

A book of remembrance has been opened at the Football Association of Wales (FAW) offices in Cardiff, and an inquest is due to open on Tuesday.

Wales and Tottenham star Gareth Bale said the death was a "massive shock".

"I don't think anybody ever thought anything like this would happen," Bale said in a statement on the Spurs website.

"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.

"We were on the up, he changed the way we play and the whole mentality of our game. It is a massive loss, but we will try and carry on the best we can in his honour."

His former team-mate Dean Saunders said Speed would be the last person he could imagine in this situation.

"As a man, you couldn't contemplate him doing something like that," he said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Beckham says Gary Speed was outstanding as a player and manager

"He's the one person you'd think 'no - absolutely no chance'," he added.

"It's not as if football was causing him a problem because he's got the team going in the right direction.

"I'm sure whatever comes out, comes out. I just wish I could have spoken to him before... maybe I could have just said something."

Wales assistant manager Raymond Verheijen said Speed had appeared "very determined" at a meeting last week looking forward to the World Cup qualifying games.

'Totally numb'

"If you look at him last Wednesday when we had the [World Cup] fixture meeting in Brussels, he was so dynamic in this seven-hour meeting with all of the other countries, fighting for the best schedule for Wales," he said.

"If you knew him as a person then it is totally the opposite of what happened yesterday," he said.

FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford said he was "absolutely in shock, totally numb".

"The messages of respect have just been unbelievable - some really, really heartfelt messages coming through," he said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGary Speed's agent and friend, Hayden Evans, said his family had been overwhelmed by the support

"Gary commanded such great respect on and off the field. He lit up a room.

"He was one of those unbelievable people that was able to walk in a room, whether it was full of players or full of fans, and just light it up. He had a real sparkle in his eyes."

The FAW says it has opened a book of remembrance at its offices in Cardiff which will be open from 09:00 to 16:00 GMT.

Speed, who leaves behind a wife and two children, had appeared on BBC One's Football Focus show on Saturday afternoon, just hours before his death.

'World in his hands'

Figures across the world of football expressed their shock.

Beckham, speaking in Jakarta, where his LA Galaxy team are playing, said: "I think he was an amazing, talented player, a player that had such a glittering career and just began a great career in management as well."

Welsh international Craig Bellamy was withdrawn from the Liverpool squad for Sunday's game against Manchester City by his manager Kenny Dalglish, who felt he was too upset to play.

Former Wales striker John Hartson had been due to commentate for the BBC at Swansea's Liberty Stadium but pulled out because he was so upset.

"It's extra hard to take. It's such a waste, such a waste. I just couldn't see it coming," said Hartson.

"It's so sad and tragic. A young man's life, fit and healthy and [he] had the world in his hands."

Image caption Speed won 85 international caps in a long and distinguished playing career

Manchester United and England striker Michael Owen, who had attended the same school as Speed in Flintshire, said he was a rare player who was respected by all supporters.

The flags outside the Welsh assembly in Cardiff Bay are flying at half-mast as a mark of respect.

Assembly member Bethan Jenkins called on fellow politicians to observe a minute's silence during Tuesday's plenary session in the debating chamber.

Speed enjoyed a long and distinguished playing career which included periods with Everton, Newcastle, Bolton, Sheffield United and Leeds, where he won the First Division title in 1992, the year before it became the Premier League.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJohn Hartson on Gary Speed

He was also Wales' most capped outfield player, winning 85 international caps, and managed Sheffield United before becoming Wales boss in December 2010.

After a difficult start, Wales' 4-1 friendly win over Norway on 12 November was his side's third successive win.

Cheshire Police said on Sunday that Speed's body was discovered at his home in Huntington, near Chester, on the outskirts of Chester.

Officers said there were no suspicious circumstances.

The BBC Radio Wales Phone-In with Jason Mohammad from 12:00 GMT features a two-hour special on Gary Speed.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites