GARY SPEED R.I.P.
Tributes have been pouring in for Wales manager Gary Speed who has been found dead at his home near Chester.
The 42-year-old former midfielder won 85 international caps and had been national team boss for 10 games.
"I'm devastated. He was a privilege to work alongside and call a friend," said ex-Wales boss Mark Hughes. "My thoughts are with his family."
Bobby Gould, who made Speed Wales captain, added: "I'm stunned and a few tears have been shed. It is so sad."
"People are just stunned. I saw John Hartson earlier and I said, "Have you heard about Gary?
"The big man just cried and cried. We cuddled each other. He was due to work this afternoon at the Liberty Stadium.
"He's in pieces. He's just gone home. Speedo was his big pal.'
Cheshire Police confirmed Speed's body was discovered at 0708 GMT at his home in Huntington, Chester, and said there were no suspicious circumstances. Sources said that he had been found hanged.
He was found hanged at his home by wife Louise at 7am yesterday.
Speed moved into the impressive Huntington Hall, surrounded by fields, three years ago with Louise and their two sons, now aged 13 and 14.
Neighbours Fred and Helen Hewitt told how they had a "friendly passing and waving relationship" with the popular star.
Helen said: "He was always very friendly. I can't believe what's happened. I can't imagine how his wife and family are coping. I feel so sorry for them."
Speed made his name at Leeds and played a key role as United won the First Division title in 1992 - the season before it was rebranded the Premier League.
The midfielder went on to play for Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United before being appointed manager of Wales in December 2010 after retiring as a player in May last year.
Wales' 4-1 friendly win over Norway on 12 November represented a third successive win for Speed's team - his fifth in 10 games as manager, and also saw Wales move up the FIFA Rankings.
Gareth Bale says Gary Speed's short time as Wales manager had a profound effect on the players.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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."
Wales striker Robert Earnshaw believes Gary Speed had the ability to become one of football's best managers.
Cardiff forward Earnshaw has joined the many football stars paying tribute to the "inspirational" Speed, who was found dead on Sunday at the age of 42.
"He was going to go on and be one of the best managers around, and in the world," said Earnshaw.
Earnshaw added: "I thought he was so far ahead of so many people on what he was trying to achieve. It just showed his drive to be better than everybody else."
"He inspired the whole Wales football set-up to make it top class.
"He had us believing we were going to qualify for the next World Cup. It's going to be so hard not to have him around."
Midfielder Speed was Wales captain when Earnshaw made a goalscoring international debut against Germany in 2002.
In an emotional interview with BBC Radio Wales, Earnshaw said he had been left shocked by the death of a man who was Wales' most capped outfield player, having represented his country 85 times.
"It's a horrible, horrible thing, never mind for me and players that have been working together over the last year, but for his family as well," added Earnshaw.
"It's hard to describe him in a few minutes because I can talk about him for ever, really.
"I'm lucky enough to have played with him and lucky enough to have had him over the last year as a manager.
"It was great having him around the place and leading and, as a person, for me he was an absolute top, top guy.
"He was so driven and inspirational. You couldn't help but totally respect him."
Another former Wales international, midfielder Matthew Jones, who won 13 caps between 1999 and 2003, remembers a man who helped him as a youngster at Leeds United.
"All I can think of is a true friend in my life," said Jones. "Gary made an impression in the football world.
"Whether you're a football fan or just in general, if you've come across Gary Speed, you would have been touched by him.
"That memory will always stick by you because he was such an inspirational role model.
"There are so many positive and nice things we can say about that gentleman.
"He made an impact in my life and, not only did he do that, I think that impact will stay with me for the rest of my life."
Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs, who played alongside Speed with Wales for 13 years, said he was "totally devastated."
"Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend," he said.
"Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news."
Howard Wilkinson, his manager at Leeds, told BBC Radio 5 live: "He had so much to offer as a person and as a sportsman.
"I just find it unbelievable. I cannot start to try to understand what his family are going through.
"Gary had a lot of talent and that talent became his job. Footballers are subject to all the stress and strains of things that happen in life.
"The players I worked with at Leeds represented all colours of the rainbow in terms of character but in Gary's case he was a star in the true sense.
"For him at 42 to leave us is such a tragic loss. He had a life of success to look forward to."
A spokesman said the club was "stunned and saddened" to hear about Speed's death. Fans gathered at the Elland Road ground to pay their respects and leave floral tributes.
Current Leeds manager Simon Grayson added: "We signed on the same day and played in the youth and reserve teams together.
"We also did all our coaching badges together. He was a good friend and this is a very sad day. Gary was such a popular person and this is a hard time for everybody."
A brief statement on Sheffield United's website read: "Everybody at Sheffield United is extremely shocked and saddened to learn of the death of former player and manager Gary Speed.
"Thoughts are with Gary's family and friends at this distressing time."
GARY SPEED FACTFILE:
1969: Born 8 Sep, Mancot, Flintshire
1988: Signs with Leeds and makes debut age 19
1992: Wins First Division with Leeds. Makes 312 apps
1996: Moves to Everton for £3.5m. Makes 65 apps
1998: Joins Newcastle for £5.5m. Loses two FA Cup finals. Mark's a landmark 400 Premier League appearances while at the club
2004: Joins Bolton for £750,000
2006: First player to make 500 Premier League appearances
2007: Elevated to first-team coach at Bolton. Becomes only player to have scored in every Premier League season (later matched by Ryan Giggs). Joins Sheffield United on loan
2008: Joins Sheffield United permanently for £250,000 and moves into coaching
2010: Retires from playing, appointed Sheffield United manager in August. Becomes Wales boss in December
2011: Wales defeat Norway 4-1 in November, his fifth win in 10 matches
After the news of his death broke, supporters at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea, paid their respects to the Wales boss - one of the most popular and experienced players of his generation - by breaking into applause during the minute's silence before kick-off against Aston Villa as the chant: 'There's only one Gary Speed' broke out spontaneously from the stands.
But the emotion was simply too much for some of Speed's friends and former colleagues.
Villa keeper Shay Given, a close friend and team-mate of Speed's at Newcastle, could not hold back his tears.
Yet both he and Villa and Wales defender James Collins took to the field. But Speed's close friend Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy was withdrawn from Kenny Dalglish's side to face Manchester City at Anfield after the manager confirmed the striker had been ‘upset by the death of a man he considered a mentor'.
Reds manager Kenny Dalglish explained: "It was best for us to make the decision for Craig. He was very close to Gary, who was a mentor to him, and he admired and looked up to him.
"Bellamy was upset and football is not as important as grieving and I made the decision.
"Football becomes irrelevant at times like this but he was a well-respected man in football for his ability and as a person.
"I signed Gary for £5m from Everton and he did a fantastic job at Newcastle. It would be disrespectful to Gary if we didn't get on with the game so we have to do that as best as we can."
Speed became Sheffield United coach after finishing his playing career at Bramall Lane but within four months he succeeded John Toshack as national manager.
Speed's assistant coach Osian Roberts paid an emotional tribute, saying: "It is tragic news, totally unbelievable.
"We looked forward to Wales camps because he led by example from the front, making people work harder, demanding more and everyone wanted to do their best because he was a generous person.
"I know I speak for everyone when I say everyone in the Welsh camp is devastated."
Manchester United striker Michael Owen tweeted: "Just cannot believe the news regarding Gary Speed. We waved at each other a couple of days ago dropping our kids off at school. I'm numb.
"He has died aged 42. So sad. He lived local to me and we knew his family. He leaves behind 2 sons. Tragic."
Leeds United fan Chris Moyles tweeted: "Just heard the very sad news about Gary Speed. Such a sad loss and so young. RIP."
Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, said: "I'm deeply saddened to hear about the death of Gary Speed.
"This is devastating news and our thoughts are with his family at what must be a very difficult time for them."
DJ Chris Evans wrote on Twitter: "The news about Gary Speed is such a shock. Very sad."
Spanish footballer Xabi Alonso wrote on the site: "RIP Gary Speed. My first PL game game was against him, he showed me in that game what is British football about."
Newcastle defender Steven Taylor, who came into the first team at St James' Park when Speed was the side's senior professional, expressed his gratitude for the help the midfielder gave him at the club.
"It is a sad, sad day. I played with him when I came through the ranks," Taylor told Radio Five Live.
"He helped me through, he was an absolute machine - the best professional in football.
"He had that aura about him. He always had time for the young lads and helped them feel good about themselves."
Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan was left shocked by the news as he had met Speed just days ago.
He said: "I am speechless at the news of Gary Speed's death.
"Craig Levein (Scotland boss) and I had lunch with him on Wednesday in Brussels. He was a talented young manager. So sad."
Tony Dorigo, who played alongside Speed in the team which won the 1992 title, said on Twitter: "I'm completely shocked and saddened. A great guy and a better team-mate you couldn't wish for. Speedo, RIP mate."
The Football Association of Wales (FAW) chief executive Jonathan Ford said: "I, and all of the football family of Wales, am devastated by the news of Gary's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this difficult time."
FAW president, Phil Pritchard added: 'I am completely shocked by this terrible news and my thoughts are with his family. We will do whatever we can as an association to help them in this difficult time. All our thoughts are with his family and this sad time."
Speed played for Wales over a period of 14 years and his former team-mate Dean Saunders said: "I just can't believe it. I spoke to him last week.
"We roomed together all of our careers with Wales. I just can't get my head around it. It's incredible.
"He's so level-headed. You never saw him down in the dumps. He was just a really nice fella. I'm just thinking about his wife and his lads."
Speed, who was awarded the MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours, leaves a wife and two children.
Robbie Savage, who is currently appearing on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing programme, also played with Speed for Wales and told BBC Sport: "I spoke to him yesterday and he was in high spirits. I just can't believe it. He was my mate and he's gone.
"He's left two gorgeous kids behind. Gary was [a professional]. He was one of the fittest guys. He looked after his body.
"He was a great team-mate, a great manager.
"He was joking yesterday [on Saturday about Robbie being on Strictly Come Dancing], saying don't get a two off Craig [Revel Horwood].
"I loved him as a friend, his wife is beautiful, he had a lovely family, he'd do anything for anybody.
"I idolised him, he was one of my heroes in life, he's been there for me, someone I spoke to every week.
"Everybody loved Gary Speed. He was such a good-looking guy, he had everything. Why has this happened?
"When I was a young kid going into the Wales squad he took me under his wing. He helped me so so much and then, just three weeks ago, he was in the Strictly [Come Dancing] crowd in the front row supporting me.
"When a lot of people finish football, they really don't want to know you, but he was there for me all the way through."
Another of Speed's former national team-mates Mark Bowen said: "Like the rest of the footballing community I am totally stunned. My thoughts are with his family it's hard to put into words.
"He trained like he played, he gave it 100%, he lived his life right off the field in terms of nutrition, which was new to a lot of us in those days.
"He was actually a captain of the Welsh team when there were a lot of older, senior players in the squad at the same time - the likes of Mark Hughes and Ian Rush. That shows you the measure of the man.
"Having played with him he was a player, a team-mate you could always rely on. He'd be there for you.
"He was an uncomplicated character and as a player and he took those traits into management. He had a long career ahead of him."
"I'll remember seeing the smiling look on his face in the tunnel after the last Wales game."
Speed appointed Aaron Ramsey as Wales' youngest captain and the Arsenal midfielder tweeted: "I was given the tragic news this morning. To say I am devastated is an understatement.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to Gary's family and friends. Today the world has lost a great football manager but even more sadly a great man. He will be missed by all."
BBC Sport's Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer told BBC Sport: "Gary was a magnificent person, bright, fun and a wonderful family man - he lit up every room he walked into. I am proud to have been his friend and will miss him dreadfully.
"We were arranging next weekend. He was coming up to stay at my house with his wife and we were going up to various charity dinners on Friday and Saturday.
"We left the studio at half past two and I walked over to Old Trafford to go and watch Newcastle. I shook his hand and said, 'see you next weekend' - and unfortunately I won't.
"It's incredible. I'm still numb and still shocked like everyone else. You read things in the newspaper and it doesn't happen to one of your best mates.
"I'm just so sad and shocked and feel for (Speed's wife) Louise and his two boys and mum and dad."
Shearer said one of the hardest things to come to terms with is reconciling the circumstances of Speed's death with his attitude and general demeanour on Saturday.
Shearer added: "I was with him and he was happy and joking and we were having a normal mickey-take like we do out of each other, and having a laugh and a joke about our golf trips and holidays that we went on together last year, and planning our next holiday in Portugal next summer with our families and kids."
Shearer's friendship with Speed grew soon after the Welshman was signed by Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle, with Shearer describing his team-mate as "a great footballer and a model pro".
Shearer added: "You're bound to have arguments along the way in football, but no-one ever did with Gary - no-one had a bad word for him.
"He was an incredible guy who you could rely and depend on. Everyone loved him... he was loved because that's the type of guy that he was - he got on with everyone and everyone respected him."
Speed had appeared on BBC's Football Focus programme on Saturday with presenter Dan Walker, who tweeted: "Staggered by the news of Gary Speed's death. Was with him for much of yesterday [Saturday]. I genuinely cannot believe it. Thoughts with his family.
"Gary was full of life yesterday talking about his kids, bright future with Wales, Twitter, golf. Can't get my head round it. So sad."
As tributes continued to come in from the world of sport and beyond, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Gary Speed, who was greatly respected by football fans across the country both as a player and manager.
"The Prime Minister's thoughts are with his family and friends on this very sad day for fans everywhere, especially in Wales."
Leeds title-winning trio David Batty, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan will lead tributes to former team-mate Gary Speed at Elland Road on Saturday. All three midfielders played alongside the former Wales coach when United won the First Division in 1992. They will lay wreaths and lead a minute's applause before their home game with Millwall. Speed joined Leeds as a trainee in 1988 and made 312 appearances, scoring 57 goals. Saturday's game will be preceded by the naming of The Gary Speed Suite at the new East Stand at Elland Road and the Leeds squad will wear black armbands during the fixture. Earlier this week Leeds fans chanted Speed's name for 11 minutes from the 11th minute of their match against Nottingham Forest in honour of their former number 11.
Leeds title-winning trio David Batty, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan will lead tributes to former team-mate Gary Speed at Elland Road on Saturday.
All three midfielders played alongside the former Wales coach when United won the First Division in 1992.
They will lay wreaths and lead a minute's applause before their home game with Millwall.
Speed joined Leeds as a trainee in 1988 and made 312 appearances, scoring 57 goals.
Saturday's game will be preceded by the naming of The Gary Speed Suite at the new East Stand at Elland Road and the Leeds squad will wear black armbands during the fixture.
Earlier this week Leeds fans chanted Speed's name for 11 minutes from the 11th minute of their match against Nottingham Forest in honour of their former number 11.