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Cardiff in full voice to commemorate Gary Speed

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Dan Walker | 19:36 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2012

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    great post Dan, nice to hear Gary get such prominent media coverage. he doesnt deserve to be overlooked.

    this is what i wrote the day after he died and you can tell just how hurt we are by the loss of, as you say, our national hero

    proud to have been one of the people holding up the cards for the tribute

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    I watched this (from 3,000 miles away) with interest, but also some concern or unease. I'm never that sure what to make of this kind of collision of the intensely private with the enormously public.
    I was relieved to hear that the funeral was private, and sure there has to be some public recognition, and it is not my place to say what is appropriate or inappropriate - that's up to the family.
    I feel for his wife and sons.
    Also mindful that he Gary Speed was only a few months older than me. Our own mortality is something we all have to reckon with.
    Good blog Dan.

    Sticking with the Cardiff & Welsh note, I'm proud of CCFC's performance against Liverpool, I just hope they can replicate that in the league.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great blog Dan, you've described the occasion just like it was. I was a bit apprehensive before going to the game about the extent of the emotion injected into the occasion but it was fitting and never seemed over the top.
    I felt really moved by the video montage of Speed's career as player and manager and especially when the teams came out and the minute's applause started and lasted about five minutes.
    We didn't play well at all but in the circumstances I think our performance can be disregarded even if at times I just thought how much we need Bale and Ramsey. I also felt for Chris Coleman. He has a tough job ahead, because most of us will still be thinking 'I wish it was Gary in the dugout'. I fear for our progress the next couple of years.

  • Comment number 5.


    Really you should be ashamed of yourself. You have absolutely no idea what he was going through or whether it was, as you say, the easy way out. It may have been the hardest thing he ever did and to characterise him as a criminal is utterly reprehensible. Suicide in fact ceased to be an offence in 1961 with the passing of the Suicide Act, so what crime has he committed?

    I suggest you apologise for your post and take a good long look at yourself

  • Comment number 6.

    Wise Owl - It's very easy and not very compassionate to say that someone taking their own life is taking the easy and selfish way out but you should try to be more thoughtful about the state of a mind that takes that step. How can you assume what goes through the mind of someone who thinks about killing themselves? Most likely total mental turmoil and suffering, maybe even thinking that committing suicide would be better for their loved ones. While that seems inconceivable for a lot of people, that just goes to show how differently the mind works when contemplating ending one's own life.

  • Comment number 7.

    AberdeenBluebird - Hear hear

  • Comment number 8.

    Great blog Dan. It's a pity you were afforded the opportunity to write thisin these circumstances.

    No one never knows what goes on behind closed doors.

    Fair play to all involved at recognising the talents of Gary in this way and what courage Ed had to say all those things.

    Praying for his wife and family at this time. Sadly they will never get over this, trust me.


  • Comment number 9.

    To All - although WiseOwl has posted something completely reprehensible, can we all not rise to it and give him satisfaction? Firstly, the inquest recorded a 'narrative' verdict (so any debate about suicide is therefore moot) and secondly Gary's brave and dignified family will perhaps be reading this.

    Gary Speed - a Welsh hero, dearly missed on a day where we celebrate another Welsh hero.

  • Comment number 10.


    1. Gary speed was being remembered for how he lived and what he did, not for how he passed, which is what makes the reaction so pleasing, that football as a whole can put it's differences aside to remember someone who affected the sport in numerous ways.

    2. if you think its easy, you need to develop even a small amount of empathy.

    on a lighter note, i also agree that remembrance for Garys family was kept seperate from how the sport remembered him, although his family were of course allowed to be part of how the sport remembered him.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry - no apology from me. This country offers all kinds of help to people who are really suffering - Citizens Advice, Religious organisations & The Samaritans to name but a few.

    Here we see an emotional and largely irrational response to an act that denied his admirers, his fans and his family of his undoubted talents. My point remains, my fellow countrymen seem happier celebrating tragedy rather than success. Its a repeat of the "Princess Dianna" syndrome and upon reflection, most rationale folk would agree that the nation over-reacted in this regard.

    I stand by my observation without wishing to cause offence to other contributors who are equally entitled to their impassioned opinions.

  • Comment number 12.

    Dan you summed it up perfectly,an amazing man,I'm a blackburn fan and it touched me so much,I'm sure he'll be back with his family one day,great writing mate!

  • Comment number 13.

    I was at the game and while I found some of the on-pitch tributes a little awkward it was great to be part of the 23,000 crowd chanting his name and standing up to applaud his memory.

    @11 - Wise Owl, I haven't seen your original comment but I got the general gist of it from other posters. I have to say I completely disagree with your observation - it's not always as simple as asking for help from someone as everyone's individual situation is completely different to the next person.

    Whilst I don't agree with you I respect that you have your opinion on the subject, the same as the rest of us.

  • Comment number 14.


    I really hope you're not a Wednesday fan, I'd hate for folk to get the wrong idea about us

  • Comment number 15.

    Well said Dan,
    As one who was there I can honestly say it was a difficult night - emotions of sadness mixed with a big sense of national pride. My son had the honour of being on the pitch whilst the anthems were sung, of standing next to Bale and Ramsey whilst the applause rang out for what felt like an age (but an age that nobody felt should end).
    What happened, how it happened, is not and should not be our concern. What is important and what was shown, recognised, remembered on Wednesday night, is that Wales and Football lost a great member of it's community. A great player and a very promising manager.
    I really hope that there are not too many like Wise Owl, who may have personal opinions that may or may not be valid, who share negative thoughts on what has turned into a wonderful coming together of the football community.
    The players looked reluctant last night and I can understand how the occasion possibly distracted many from the game so no criticism there it was a friendly after all and we did have the 'dragon's share of possession probably lacking the incisiveness of Ramsey and thrust of Bale. Though Crofts played very well and that was the best game I've seen Hal Robson Kanu play for Wales.
    I just hope that we really do carry on from the foundations of the 'house' that Gary started to build. Craig don't leave now, see the job done please.
    Seeing all those greats on the pitch at half time just made me think what if more of them had played in the same team ..... The next generation must aspire to deliver the dream for Wales and for Gary - RIP

  • Comment number 16.

    Whatever people think about how Gary Speed died the main thing about Wednesday night was to pay tribute to a great footballer and personality and that should be remembered.

    In an era when football gets its fair share of negative news often brought upon itself the dignity and courage shown by Gary's family and friends has to be admired and the respect given back by fans and players.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm sorry I have to post this although I will probably get abuse for it but no Hero, Legend or whatever you want to name Mr Speed leaves 2 young children and a Wife it sad? yes it is, it's his Family i feel for!

  • Comment number 18.

    To be honest I don't see why Gary Speed is being held up as some sort of martyr. Lots of people have problems in life and don't commit suicide which is the cowards way out. As far as I am concerned he left his kids in the lurch and doesn't deserve to be treated as a hero.

  • Comment number 19.

    18. At 11:31 2nd Mar 2012, Dave wrote:

    Agreed, real shame as his boys seem like real nice lads and shouldn't have been put through this.

  • Comment number 20.

    Shame people have to focus on the negative side of things, and there is no point in over-analysing these issues as you'll never get the answers you want - and don't think his sons would appreciate the emphasis either.

    Gary will be very missed by of course his family, friends and fans, and I am glad I attended the match wednesday to reflect and remember him, and celebrate his life in such a positive way. It gave an opportunity to remember all the great things about him, and I'm confident , the support the event received Wednesday WILL give some comfort to his wife and sons, and close friends, that he was respected and loved by the the Welsh fans (and those all around the country).

  • Comment number 21.

    The Football Association of Wales and Gary Speed's family can take great satisfaction towards the tribute paid to Gary Speed on Wednesday.

    Everyone in the Cardiff City Stadium can also take great delight in the way they added to the occasion by the continued applause throughout the game, and especially the Canton End who gave a fantastic spectacle of the Welsh flag with the words 'GARY' on it.

    Great thanks also to those musicians who performed prior to the game and at half time, and it was fantatsic to see so many Welsh legends gathered in one place for what was a night to remember.

    I'm sure that Gary Speed's family were extremely proud of the tribute paid to him.

    Diolch Yn Fawr Iawn.

  • Comment number 22.

    Whilst I understand people not having total sympathy for the man himself I am not sure anyone has been calling Gary Speed a hero for the way he died...

    More for the things he did on the football pitch throughout a long career.

  • Comment number 23.

    Wishing young Thomas and Edward
    strength and courage as they journey
    through life in the company of their
    loved ones. All the best.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 24.

    As with Princess Dianna & other fallen idols it would seem that members of our society love to clear their conscience by coming together in some form of collective contrition or act of confession before returning to their normal and largely selfish ways.

    These ways include aggressive & abusive chants at football matches, the quiet delight in another's personal failure or crisis - particularly those of celebrities and other events when an idol fails. Look at the media frenzy and delight about "Gazza's" downfall or the excitement when things go wrong for 'Posh & Becks' - such fascination is driven by consumers who buy the papers and revel in such matters.

    Look at how the nation delighted in the media exposure of the wrongly accused retired school teacher Christopher Jefferies after the truly tragic murder of Joanna Yates. Now that 'was' a tragedy which deserves far greater compassion for a murder rather than that "penance-like" out-poring of grief that has been demonstrated by a society looking to clear its conscience following an idol's decision to take the easy way out.

    Finally, as Ireland pays tribute to Frank Carson - demonstrably a marvellous man who lived his life to the full, supported numerous charities and who fought against sectarian bigotry - shouldn't we note that context and set Carson against Gary Speed's worth?

    In this regard, while Gary Speed may have been a great sportsman, he does not measure up to others and is neither worthy nor deserving of the adoration and praise that has been heaped upon him.

  • Comment number 25.


    It doesn't fall to you or any individual to decide what someone is worth. The idea of a person's worth is entirely subjective. Many people feel Mr Speed's memory is worth their time and good feeling, many people feel he is worthy of adulation and/ or praise. You do not have the right to say he is not worthy of such. if you feel he is not worthy of YOUR adulation, that's an opinion you are entitled to. You are absolutely not entitled to make that judgment on behalf of the rest of us.

    As for people who are saying he left his family in the lurch, be realistic. This would make sense if he'd been the sole breadwinner and the family lived on a modest income. Gary Spped was a top footballer - and paid as such - for years. His family will be well provided for in material terms. What they are missing is him as a person, and as none of us really know what the family dynamic was we cannot comment on what effect this has had. Also, to say its the coward's way out is typically snobbish thinking as the people who say that are also the people who say "I'd never do it" and look down on people who do. Try ad stop to think for a moment and realise that no-one takes that decision - to end their own life - if they feel they have any other option. You may see it as a coward's act, he may have seen it as his only option

  • Comment number 26.

    It was a nice tribute but I also think another fitting tribute would be for Leeds to play Newcastle in a pre-season friendly (in the true sense of the word) for the GS Shield with all proceeds going to whatever Gary or his family support(ed).

    People who have 'no sympathy' or think it's 'a cowards way out' need to get a better understanding of mental health issues before they make judgement. None of us know what Gary Speed's mental health was like at the time of his death - sure on the face of it he had a lovely wife, 2 young sons, a brilliant playing career and a promising managerial one - so what level of despair drives him to take his own life - it's not something you'd do on a whim, surely, or after a row with the wife?

    I don't know the answer and we will all probably never really know all the answers but I'm not going to pass judgement on a man who was seemingly so well liked by everyone he met.


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