How can we play? Sheffield United players and friends express grief over Gary Speed tragedy

Ambitious: Gary Speed had talked about his hopes of reaching the World Cup finals with Wales.'      Picture: PA Wire

Ambitious: Gary Speed had talked about his hopes of reaching the World Cup finals with Wales.' Picture: PA Wire

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SHEFFIELD United manager Danny Wilson faces an almost impossible task of lifting his devastated players for the FA Cup match against Torquay on Saturday after the death of former player and boss Gary Speed.

Several of Wilson’s team and backroom staff have spoken on the club’s website about the loss of their colleague, friend and, in some instances, their inspiration.

Striker Ched Evans, who was hoping to establish himself in the Wales team under Speed, said the whole club is in shock: “It’s very sad in the dressing room, nobody knows what to say or what to do.

“He was that sort of person who everyone felt close to. He’d always take time out to talk to you. I was devastated. I knew him on a personal level, more than just a coach. He always looked out for me. I find myself asking, why?

“When I signed for United I had a few phone calls from Gary. He was the biggest reason I came here. He was a Welsh legend. When we met up last he was going through what the future held for Wales. His ambition was the World Cup. He has turned Welsh football around, gate numbers were going up and more importantly we were winning games.”

Full back Matthew Lowton said Speed made him believe he could make it as a player.

“The first time I knew I really had talent was when Gary told me,” he said. “For it to come from him made me think that I had a chance of doing something. I owe everything to Gary Speed.”

Academy director John Pemberton played with Speed at Leeds United and became close to his family: “My first day at Leeds he welcomed me into the club. We became good friends. He was a player who was a great role model for younger players. If ever a person made the best of what he had, he was the one.”

And defender Johnny Ertl paid this tribute: “What impressed me most was that he was the same person to everyone - to the groundsman, to the players, to the chairman, to everyone. He was just a great man.”

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