I heard about this terrible news earlier this afternoon. As my football friends will testify, I was very sad when John Toshack stood down as the Manager of the Welsh National Team. But I was always clear that I welcomed and supported the appointment of Gary Speed. He was an incredible servant to his various football clubs – Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United – and also to the Welsh National team, for whom he was always one of my favourite players. He was an incredible professional and role model for young people. He was the type of player who would give 100% every game and be sure to shake hands with the referee and opponents afterwards. A real gentleman and a deep thinker.
My family and I had the incredible privilege to watch the Welsh National Team train the evening before their game against England at Wembley Stadium back in September. The highlight was when Gary Speed came over to speak to the various children. One of the ladies with us had gone to the game against Montenegro at Cardiff the Friday before and a number of us were saying how hugely excited we were about the future of Welsh Football. I remember my son being very excited and jumping up and down. We had the following exchange:
Me [Speaking to my son]: Calm down Aidan!
Gary Speed [smiling]: He is fine.
Me: He is one for the future.
Gary Speed smiled again. He was simply so nice and so kind.
Here is a picture of Gary Speed with two of my children. I will always treasure it and the one time we had the terrific experience of meeting a wonderful man:
Gorffwys mewn Heddwch Speedo!
Rest in Peace Speedo!