“ONCE a Blade, always a Blade”
That was the touching messsage from fans who put team colours aside to pay heartfelt tributes to Sheffield United legend Gary Speed after his tragic death aged 42.
The dad-of-two was found hanged in his Cheshire home on Sunday and police have said there are no suspicious circumstances.
Tears fell as a steady stream of shocked mourners said a final farewell, leaving flowers and shirts, teddies and cards, at Bramall Lane.
“I was gutted. I shed a few tears about it,” said lifelong Blade Dean Lee, who laid a bouquet with partner Chloe Bentley and daughter Charlie Lee, aged two.
“It’s such a loss. I saw him on the pitch as a Blade but never got to meet him, I wish I had. It’s sad that he took his own life, it’s the thing I can’t get my head around.”
Nicola Ward, 38, of Doncaster, had fond memories of ‘Speedo.’ Her dad was a talent scout for Leeds United, where Gary, who left Bramall Lane as manager last December to be the Welsh team manager, also played.
“When I was 14 Gary was my pin-up. I had his picture plastered all over my bedroom. I just can’t take it in. He was very quiet actually when you met him. Why has he done this?”
Handwritten tributes, one from a child, said ‘thank you for blessing our turf” and gave condolences to Gary’s family.
The Wales national flag fluttered from Autocraft Services Ltd opposite the club as a mark of respect.
Technician and United supporter Chris McDougall, 31, said: “Gary was a footballing legend at all the clubs he’s been at. It’s such a shame how it happened.”
Visibly moved Blade Anthony Saville, 21, of Sharrow, laid a Christmas stocking and signed picture of Gary with relatives.
“I heard about it on the TV. I was shocked, I just didn’t believe it was true. He was a good player, good manager. I used to live in Leeds as well so I’ve have known him all my life.”
An inquest was due to open into Gary’s death in Warrington today.
The Football Association of Wales opened a book of condolences after been inundated with messages .
Blade Kevan Smith, who visited Bramall Lane in his lunch hour yesterday, said: “I think it unites football fans. There’s no Wednesday or United on days like this.
“It’s just unbelievable.”