Gary Speed: Football and rugby tribute to Wales manager

Tributes to Gary Speed at Elland Road
Image caption Leeds United fans are being encouraged to leave tributes to Gary Speed at Elland Road

Football fans and rugby supporters will unite this weekend to remember Wales manager Gary Speed.

A minute's applause will be observed at every Premier League fixture, while crowds at the Wales-Australia rugby game will observe a minute's silence.

Speed, 42, was found dead at his home in Cheshire on Sunday.

His widow, Louise, will make an emotional return to Leeds United, where Speed started his professional football career.

At Mrs Speed's request, Newcastle United have postponed plans to mark the former player's long connection with the club, where he made 285 appearances.

Newcastle had planned to lead the 52,000 crowd at St James' Park in the Welsh hymn Bread of Heaven while supporters in the east stand held up cards depicting the number 11, Speed's shirt number.

While Newcastle will take part in this Saturday's minute of applause, they will pay a full tribute to Speed on 17 December, when they Welsh rivals Swansea City.

At Elland Road, Leeds United manager Simon Grayson said he was preparing his team for a poignant and emotional afternoon as they host Millwall.

Image caption Gary Speed played for a number of Premier League clubs during a long career

He will lay a wreath, joined by Millwall manager and former Welsh international Kenny Jackett, and Speed's former team-mates, Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan and David Batty.

"It's going to be a very, very poignant day with it being our first game back at Elland Road," Grayson told the club's website.

"This is the place where Gary started his career, and he played many games here, not just in senior football, but for the reserves and the juniors as well.

"There's a lot of things going off on the day and it's bound to be a very emotional afternoon for everyone."

'Iconic player'

A minute's silence will also be held at Sheffield United's ground Bramall Lane before the FA Cup game against Torquay United, and former Welsh international Robert Page will lay wreaths at pitchside before kick-off.

Speed managed Sheffield United before he took the Wales job, and large images of him have also been erected at the ground's car park, where they will remain for the rest of the season.

The Premier League said all fixtures this weekend will observe the one minute's applause, including at Swansea's game against Blackburn.

"Gary Speed was a wonderful ambassador for the game of football and will be remembered as an iconic player of the Premier League era," the league said in a statement.

Image caption Uefa paid a tribute to Speed at the Euro 2012 draw in Kiev

"This will give clubs and fans the opportunity to show their appreciation for Gary's career and let his friends and family know that football's thoughts are with them at this difficult time."

Rugby fans at the Wales-Australia international at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff are also being asked to take part in a minute's silence on Saturday.

The Welsh Rugby Union said: "It is important for rugby to pay its respects to Gary Speed and the international on Saturday, which is the first for a Welsh team since his passing, is a fitting opportunity for that tribute to be paid."

Speed's death was also marked during the draw for the Uefa Euro 2012 tournament on Friday.

An image of the Wales manager was shown on a big screen at the auditorium in Kiev.

Uefa's Gianni Infantino said Speed was "one of the most popular characters of the game".

Former Wales international Robbie Savage will dedicate his dance on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing show to his old team-mate.

He told BBC Radio 1's Vernon Kay: "My last impression of Gary was here at Strictly. It was four weeks ago and I did my jive and he was in the front row.

"That was the last time I saw him. I'm just going to go out there and perform for him."

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