Inside Newcastle and Leeds hero Gary Speed's enduring impact on and off the field 11 years after sad passing

The former Wales captain will always be a much-loved and admired figure within football.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the sad passing of Gary Speed and he remains as much of a miss to the football community as he was on that fateful day.

I can remember exactly where I was when the news filtered out on a cold and crisp Sunday morning and such was the impact I can vividly remember the conversations that took place. I was stood on a touchline on the outskirts of Sunderland in my role coaching an Under-13s team when a text came through from my Dad relaying what was being reported. As the heartbreaking news spread among the parents on both sides of the pitch, the initial conversations were not of why it had happened or there was no rumour-mongering that sadly took place in certain areas of the media in the days that followed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was not and never will be time to speculate or discuss the why’s and ifs, nor will it ever be acceptable to condemn or criticise Gary for what happened. No, those initial conversations were expressions of sadness for Gary’s friends, family and former team-mates and of the loss of such an admired figure within the game.We spoke of Gary’s fearlessness on the pitch and his whole-hearted commitment to any team that had the fortune of having him within their midst.

We remembered the quite majestic sight of him producing a perfectly-timed run into the penalty area that inevitably ended with the net bulging after a trademark header. We spoke of his remarkable progress he had made during a promising opening to his career as an international manager with his beloved Wales as he put down the foundations that allowed the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey to flourish at major tournaments.I should add, parents of the players I coached were split across the Tyne and Wear divide.

Some were staunch Sunderland supporters, while just as many were of a Newcastle United persuasion. But whether red and white or black and white, they were united in their admiration and fondness of Gary, despite him spending a successful spell with just one of those clubs.After watching Gary from the Gallowgate stands throughout his time with Newcastle, the main memories I can take from him were of a wholehearted midfielder that became a standard-setter for the young players around him. But my main memory is of his first return to St James Park after he was sold to Bolton Wanderers.

Pre-match and post-match, he spent time talking to Newcastle supporters, he was shown warmth and it was reciprocated.The conversations that took place in the aftermath of his passing were full of warmth and understanding, before sadness crept in during the hours that followed. It is never easy to fully come to terms with the events that took place that morning, but we can try to work towards supporting those that have gone to such a dark place in their lives, despite seeming to be surrounded by happiness and love.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We spend most of our lives communicating with each other, whether that be face-to-face, over the phone by calls or text or via social media, which for all of the negatives within its midst, can also be a force for good. Yet do we really understand the impact of communicating regularly? Do we realise that opening up to someone and having them listen to our problems can make such a positive impact on our mental health?

I have written of my own mental health problems on a number of occasions over the last decade and I have found that process somewhat cathartic. But the easiest way of easing a problem is by sharing them and finding someone that can support, offer advice and allow you to talk in an open and honest manner. I am now fortunate to have many people in my life that I can talk to should I feel the need and I would like to think people see me as a similar outlet.

As men, we are told not to cry or show emotion from a young age. We are told to be strong, fearless and to just plough on as if nothing has happened. How many of us have been told to ‘man-up’ during tough times? Such an approach is not beneficial for anyone and often does more harm than good.

I am honoured to be an ambassador for suicide prevention charity If U Care Share Foundation and they have a motto that is used during their annual ‘Inside Out’ campaign that rings as true today as it did the first time it was spoken.

It is ok not to feel ok.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is normal and natural to have those periods of darkness in your life, especially given the pressures and divisions imposed upon us in modern society. But there will be a light that can emerge in the darkness and finding it means reaching out. Gary Speed was a shining light for many throughout his career as a player, coach and manager - and he will remain that way for years to come.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.