Cardiff in full voice to commemorate Gary Speed
On the Sunday that Gary's Speed death was announced I remember being staggered by the depth of feeling and shock. This week in Cardiff that emotion was given a very powerful and memorable voice.
The planned minute's applause before kick-off against Costa Rica on Wednesday didn't need to be orchestrated. It started instinctively as the players came out and was three times longer than planned. Nobody wanted to stop.
Those inside The Cardiff City Stadium were remembering a national hero but Gary's family were a poignant presence throughout. They were remembering a husband, a son, a brother and a father.
His two sons were incredible. Ed is just 14 years old but was handed a microphone in a packed VIP suite before the game to address the gathered family and football friends.
Nearly 400 people stood in silence as a young man spoke of how he missed his dad, how his mum was struggling on, how his grandad continued to take him to football training and how he and his brother Tommy were Gary's living legacy.
The four minute speech was impeccably delivered without a whisper of nerves and the sort of class that his dad displayed whether it was on a pitch, in a dugout or in front of a TV camera.
Gary Speed's sons Thomas and Edward pay their respects alongside Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsay before kick-off. Photo: Getty
The two lads who Gary referred to as "my lovely boys" the day he made his final appearance in the Football Focus studio were a huge part of the evening. They accompanied the players on to the pitch and were the first to rise when thousands of voices implored the crowd to "Stand Up For Gary Speed". Tommy spoke impressively on the PA at half-time and Ed addressed the players in the dressing room afterwards.
If it was tough for the family, it was awkward for Chris Coleman. At last he had the job he had always loved in circumstances he hated. He wanted it to be his friend Gary's night and was conspicuous by his absence from the technical area - happy instead to sit quietly in the dugout.
If the game was difficult the post-match press conference was almost too much. The new Wales manager had to take a long pause when asked about Ed's speech to the players. Eventually he said "that's bravery isn't it?... Ed made that speech without a tear in his eye. Strong as an ox."
Gary's dad, Roger, had spoken to the players before the game and perhaps it was the added emotion from the Speed family that led to such a limp match. Wales were well off the pace and beaten by a lively Costa Rica side - the same side Gary had made his debut against 22 years ago.
It is three months since he died but barely a week has gone by without the same questions coming back. What was it like to work on the show with Gary that day? What did he say? Did you suspect anything? Why? Why? Why? We still don't know the answers to all those questions and perhaps we never will.
Gary Speed's death was a shock to football. It remains a shock to football. I spoke to someone on Wednesday night who said he found Gary's passing harder to deal with than his own mothers. She was 86 and ill while Gary was 42 and seemingly enjoying the fullness of life.
I went to Cardiff worried that the outpouring of emotion might be awkward and difficult to watch. It wasn't. It was raw, passionate, pure, powerful, unforced and real.
It wasn't about the football, it was about a footballer. This was about a nation remembering one of its sporting heroes. This was about a family putting on the bravest face they could and trying their best to move on. We all hope they can.