Gary Speed: Father tells of struggle since son's death

Roger Speed described his son as inspirational

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The father of late Wales manager Gary Speed has told how an "overwhelming" outpouring of tributes from across the world have helped the family cope on the anniversary of his death.

The former Leeds, Everton and Newcastle footballer died on 27 November 2011 at the age of 42.

His body was found hanged in the garage at his home near Chester.

Roger Speed told BBC Wales the past year had been a struggle for him and his wife Carol.

Start Quote

You've got to lift your spirits and look forward. Gary would have wanted it so we have to”

End Quote Roger Speed Father

The football world united in tributes after the sudden death of Speed, less than a year after he had taken charge of Wales following a glittering playing career.

The coroner at his inquest said he could not be satisfied the former midfielder intended to kill himself.

"We still don't believe, we're still wondering why; he had the world at his feet, it's been a hell of a 12 months," said Mr Speed.

"I never want to go through it again in my life if I can help it. Carol has really, really struggled. She's just started having a couple of games of golf a week and a bit of shopping with her mates but she doesn't want to get up in morning and she goes to bed early at night."

Mr Speed has thrown himself into helping with his two teenage grandsons, Ed - a Wales under-16 qualified international - and Tommy.

"I've coped pretty well because I'm looking after the two boys; they've been brilliant, that's given me something to look at and keep me going."

Carol Speed with her grandsons at the tribute match Carol Speed with her grandsons Ed and Tommy at the tribute match to Gary

"The boys are coping very well. That's down to their father, the sort of man he was, he did a lot of good for them."

"Ed's the footballer; he's at Wrexham and is just his Dad all over. Tommy is more outgoing, the boxer but a footballer, he's a natural. Ed has to work harder at it with his training.

GARY SPEED

Gary Speed
  • 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 Utd for £5.5m. Loses two FA Cup finals
  • 2004: Joins Bolton for £750,000
  • 2006: First player to make 500 Premier League appearances
  • 2007: Becomes 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: Awarded the MBE; 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
  • Found dead on 27 November

"They're two great lads. I take them everywhere but they keep me going in life, that's what I'm living for. When you see them doing well, it's lovely".

Mr Speed recalled how surprised he was when Ed got up to speak to 500 people at a reception at the Gary Speed tribute match in Cardiff in February.

"We couldn't believe it. He said: 'Me and grandad Rog, we'll carry on, we'll do it for Dad.' That really gets me that does."

Mr Speed said the tributes had been overwhelming from "all corners of the globe".

"People we don't know sent us letters addressed 'Mr and Mrs Speed, Gary's parents,' no address, posted like that and we got them.

"I've got a couple of bin bags full of letters, we've kept them all. Everyone thinks their son is the best person in the world. But when the world thinks he's the best person...

"We didn't realise, we thought everyone knew him in Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool but not the world. The tributes from top footballers in the world, like [Michel] Platini and the likes of [football governing body Fifa's president] Sepp Blatter."

Mr Speed described his son as inspirational.

"He wanted to win, he was a winner. He had a way, the way he talked to the players - it proved it, when he got some of the same players playing world class. He had charisma.

"At the Costa Rica game, Howard Webb came over to me and said he was the best professional he'd ever refereed. He said he made a mistake in one game and Gary came up to him, patted him on the shoulder and said,'You'll make more, just carry on with what you're doing'."

Mr Speed said Gary would have made a success of the Wales job.

"I was very confident. The Wales squad - Gary had them like a family. That's what he would've wanted. If we can keep it like that, it would be great. It must have been a shock for them.

Tributes at Leeds United Fans left tributes outside Speed's former clubs, including Leeds United

"I was born in Chester, within the city walls, so I'm English but I'm a converted Welshman. I want them to beat England now, that's what Gary's done to me. He converted me."

He still asks why it happened but said talking about Gary helped him cope.

"I've got his picture on my computer, Carol has it on her phone. We see him every day, we talk to him every day. You have to talk about him to people, people might know more than you about the other side of Gary than you."

"It gives you strength. I think he achieved everything he wanted to except winning a big competition like the World Cup. His final achievement was the honour of managing his country. He turned it around."

He is spending the anniversary of Gary's death with his daughter.

"It's no good moping about it, you've got to lift your spirits and look forward. Gary would have wanted it so we have to. It's nice other people still remember him. At Leeds they still sing his name now, they're tremendous".

Gary Speed: One Year On can be heard on BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday 27 November at 19:00 GMT

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