Sheffield United: Remembering Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle United legend Gary Speed, on his 51st birthday
Back in 2011, the football world lost one of its true greats with the death of Gary Speed, MBE, who would have turned 51 today.
Shirts, scarves and flowers were laid outside Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium, which Speed had graced for a brief period as both player and manager. Both spells were short, but memorable, and one fan’s tribute after Speed’s death summed it up well: “Gary, you were not the most successful manager at Bramall Lane in your short spell but you definitely were the most likeable.”
His time at the Blades ended in December 2010, when he found an approach from his beloved Wales impossible to turn down. Just over a year after his appointment, on December 21, 2011, Wales were awarded the ‘Best Movers of the year’ title after gaining more ranking points than any other nation in 2011. Tragically, Speed was not there to accept the award.
Although Speed was undoubtedly approaching the end of his playing career when he joined United, he was in unbelievable shape and ran the 2010 London Marathon.
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Former Blades goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, who played with Speed at Bramall Lane, said: “I can’t imagine what Speedo went through. He was someone I looked up to over the years, even before I got the chance to play alongside him, and it was a massive shock when I found out.
"On the surface he had everything. He had an unbelievable career and was always talking about his kids, but something drove him to that dark place that no-one who hasn’t been there could possibly begin to imagine.”
Blades legend Chris Morgan added: “He was extremely popular at Bramall Lane, both as a player and in a managerial capacity with the lads.”
James Shield, this newspaper’s Blades correspondent, remembers “a footballing colossus who nevertheless remained down to earth and possessed the human touch” and described Speed as “the consummate professional who always remained courteous despite knowing that his achievements in the game meant, no matter how he conducted himself, he would still command folks’ respect.
“And that,” James added, “more than any medal or cap, was the mark of the man.”