Gary Speed, the manager of Wales who was found dead aged 42 on Sunday, enjoyed a hugely distinguished career in football.
As a player, Speed was blessed with skill, athleticism, intelligence, dedication, sportsmanship and, not least, universal popularity. Then, joining the managerial ranks, he called on those same attributes to carve out another successful profession.
Born in Mancot in north Wales, Speed made his debut for Leeds United AFC at 19. He could play anywhere across midfield and in his later years gave distinguished service to his country at left-back. During an eight-year stay at Elland Road he helped Leeds win the English First Division title in 1992 and formed part of a distinguished midfield alongside Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister and David Batty.
Speed then had an 18-month spell with Everton FC, the team he supported as a boy and went on to captain, but it was at Newcastle United FC from 1998 onwards that he flourished as one of the Premier League's all-time outstanding players, appearing in the 1998 and 1999 FA Cup finals.
Speed made his Wales debut in 1990 and went on to win 85 caps – the most for a Welsh outfield player – many as captain. He announced his international retirement in 2004 yet continued plying his trade with Bolton Wanderers FC and finally Sheffield United FC, becoming the first man to reach 500 Premier League appearances. He would make 535 – the third highest top-flight tally since 1992/93 – and more than 750 first-team outings in total.
He had long been marked out as a likely manager of the future and began coaching duties with Sheffield United, before taking the reins after three games of the 2010/11 season.
It was around the same time that John Toshack agreed to step down as manager of the Welsh national side. Speed was confirmed as his replacement on 14 December 2010 and after a difficult start had begun to make a success of the job, guiding Wales to five victories in their last seven fixtures.
So well liked and so respected, Speed was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 birthday honours for his services to football. He leaves a wife, Louise, and two sons.
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