Gareth Bale 'devastated' by Gary Speed's death

Gareth Bale
Bale is one of Wales' key players

Gareth Bale says Gary Speed's short time as Wales manager had a profound effect on the players.

Speed, who was found dead at his home in Cheshire on Sunday aged 42, had won his last three games in charge of Wales since taking over in December 2010.

"We were on the up, he changed the way we play and the whole mentality of our game," said Tottenham winger Bale.

"It is a massive loss, but we will try and carry on the best we can in his honour."

Bale played a key role in Wales' recent revival, scoring in successive games as Wales won three in a row for the first time since 2008.

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FAW Chief Executive, Jonathan Ford: "He lit up the room"

The 22-year-old said Speed's death had left him in a state of disbelief and sorrow.

"It was a massive shock, I don't think anybody ever thought anything like this would happen," added Bale.

"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."

Bale's tribute reinforces the words of Wales assistant manager Raymond Verheijen, who says Speed was "adored" by the players.

"Every time he stepped into a room he energised the place. You could see the players adored him. They really looked up to him," Verheijen told BBC Wales.

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Speed had a dream to go to World Cup - Verheijen

Dutchman Verheijen joined Speed's backroom team as assistant manager in February.

Despite a difficult start to his career as national team manager, Speed had overseen a revival in Wales' fortunes recently.

Wales had won four of their last five matches and Speed had been planning for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, which begin in September.

Verheijen said the former Leeds and Newcastle United midfielder lifted the spirits of the Welsh players during his 12 months in charge.

"He made the players believe that they could qualify for the World Cup and get to Brazil," he added.

"He was the perfect example of practise what you preach and the players really followed him.

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Gordon Strachan pays tribute to Gary Speed on Radio 5 live's Your Call

"When we sat down with one player [for] individual talks you could how open the players were to listen to his advice.

"It's something that I have not seen a lot in my 15 years in football."

Verheijen, who previously worked with the Netherlands, South Korea and Russia, said he had been left shocked by the death of his friend Speed.

"If you know him as a person then it's totally opposite to what has happened," he said.

"I remember him as a beautiful person, a very stable person full of energy.

"When we started with Wales things were hard [but] he proved he could deal with set backs and stress very well. He was always very relaxed.

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

'Gary commanded great respect'

"He was very determined looking forward to the World Cup qualifying games and also the progress we'd made with Wales.

"If you beat Bulgaria, Switzerland, Montenegro, Norway and even outplaying England at Wembley then you have so much things going on for you.

"All the signs were there that he would have been a very, very successful manager.

"We definitely shared a dream. That's how it all started.

"The first thing that we have to focus on now is pay respects. After that we have to find out what the future will be."

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