LOYAL Blades have reacted with disbelief to the tragic death of Gary Speed.
Sheffield Central MP and lifelong Blade Paul Blomfield said: “I’m deeply saddened by this personal tragedy. He was a great player who I enjoyed watching at Bramall Lane and I think he had huge potential as a manager. My thoughts are with his family.”
United season-ticket holder Mark Hawley, 38, from Treeton, said: “I was really shocked when I heard the news.
“He always seemed a popular player with his team mates and supporters, no one ever seemed to have a bad word to say about him.
“I saw his first game as a player for Sheffield United, and first game as manager, and although he wasn’t a roaring success in charge he tried to play football the right way.
“His potential was really starting to show with Wales. We saw him on holiday last summer in St Tropez - he was on a yacht and looked to be enjoying life.
“He must have been in a really dark place to leave two children.”
Derek Hurst, 78, who has been going to Bramall Lane since 1938, said: “He was a good player and a decent manager - and I didn’t blame him for going to Wales.
“He was very good to us at the Senior Blades club - a real gentleman who really went out of his way.”
A statement from Sheffield United Fans’ Alliance said: “We were aghast at the sad news of the untimely passing of former club captain and manager, Gary Speed.
“The reaction from all football fans has been the same - shock and sadness and this ability to unite all football fans of differing allegiances shows the regard that this consummate professional was held in.”
SUFA chairman Stuart Drew added: “On behalf of all Sheffield United fan groups I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family.
“Gary supported Blades fan groups by generously giving up his time and donating many items to enable funds to be raised to benefit local charities.
“He was a great ambassador to football, a great man and a sad loss to all Blades.”
FANS last night laid floral tributes to Gary Speed at Bramall Lane.
A Sheffield United flag was hung between the statues of those two other great Blades, Derek Dooley and Joe Shaw.
One fan had left a replica of Speed’s number 15 United shirt, with the words, ‘Speed, Legend’ on the back.
Another fan had written on a white away shirt, ‘RIP Speedo, SUFC Legend’.
Others had left red and white scarves and flowers, along with a Wales shirt with the words ‘cysgu yn dawel’ - Welsh for ‘sleep peacefully’.
One card said: “We will always remember you for the nice chap you always were. Rest in peace and show them how footy is played.”
Another, signed by ‘Ned the Lodge Moor Owl and all the Wednesday family’, said: “What a waste - 85 caps, a nice family, why? Only the good die young.”
United fan Graham Hayway, 52, from Heeley, visiting Bramall Lane to read the tributes, said: “It’s a tragic loss to football, he will be missed by everybody. He was a popular figure here.”
Sheffield United managing director Dave McCarthy said: “On this tragic occasion it is fitting way for our fans to remember Gary where there is an appropriate area for supporters to leave their tributes.”
THE blue and red halves of Sheffield put aside their historic differences to pay tribute to Gary Speed. Here’s what they said on The Star website:
n Archangel: “Absolutely shocking news. So young and just turning Wales around. What can have caused this, maybe no-one will know. RIP Gary.”
n owlsforever: “RIP Gary Speed.”
n Wednesday4eva: “News as shocking as this puts all football rivalry into perspective.
“I don’t know how or indeed why someone with so much talent should be taken at such an early age but I feel so sorry for his family and friends.
“I only watched him on TV the other day. It is truly tragic news.”
n 5thGenBlade: “I’m not an emotional guy, but I was really upset when I read the headlines this morning.
“I met the guy once at Bramall Lane, and you couldn’t wish to talk to a more pleasant and genuine character. Farewell Gary. RIP.”
n Whitwell Blade: “A true professional and gentleman - a sad loss to football and indeed society.”
n silverblade: “R.I.P. Gary Speed. Shocked. Only saw him yesterday on football focus. You never know what’s round the corner.”
n PaulSheffield: “Terrible news RIP Gary Speed.”
n floridablade: “Terrible news. RIP Gary. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”
n paulSheff9: “Shocking news. RIP Gary. From Wincobank, an owl.”
Fans and celebrities on Twitter said:
n Jessica Ennis: “Such sad news about Gary Speed. It’s awful. My thoughts are with his family.”
n Lee Westwood: “So sad to hear about Gary Speed. A true pro and really nice fella. RIP Gary Speed.”
n Toby Perkins MP: “Appalled that Gary Speed has died, great player and manager of tremendous promise - my thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”
n Stanley Lucas: “Still cannot believe the news about Gary Speed. Makes you think how people may look fine on the outside, but inside they aren’t
n Number10gov: “The Prime Minister was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Gary Speed, who was greatly respected by football fans across the country.”
n Bacary Sagna: “Really sad news today about Gary Speed. Thinking about his family.”
n Mark Watson: “The Gary Speed news is numbing. It’s worth noting how often seemingly happy people do this, and making an effort to understand why.”
n Toby Foster: “What awful news about Gary Speed.”
n Jon McClure: “Gary Speed dying has proper got to me.”
n Xabi Alonso: “RIP Gary Speed. My first PL game was against him, he showed me in that game what British football is about.”