We don’t cover much on football here, and won’t pretend to have suddenly been converted overnight to a love for the sport, but there was one sense of consistency in Wales during the last decade or so when it came to sport, that we were blessed with a very small handful of truly class footballers, who could command the respect of many in Wales, regardless of their sporting allegiance or interest. The likes of Ian Rush, Neville Southall and Ryan Giggs of course come to mind, but Gary Speed was certainly one of those few who we could all acknowledge as a great of the nation. And it is with great sadness that he is no longer here.
For a non football fan, Speed was a name that crossed the sports page divide, his was a name that would always appear in the papers, and it was a name that commanded respect and authority for his ability and commitment on the field. As a player he certainly took part in some of Wales’ more recent relative glories, but his persistence with the Welsh footballing cause, when at times it appeared to be on its knees, is something that sticks out most. In taking on the Welsh managerial role, he took over a team that was in what seemed to be as a bad a shape as it had been in several decades, yet in a very short space of team, he seemed to be well on his way to moulding the next generation of Welsh footballing stars into a team of true potential.
There will no doubt be questions raised about why this happened, questions about mental health, and already the internet at large is rife with depression based debates (whether that was a cause or not), and there will probably be a time for such discussions in the future – ‘why’ after all is the question that most people are asking in this time of shock. But in the immediacy of the event, all that needs to be said is that this is a tragic loss of a great servant to sport and to Wales. Regardless of your interest in football, his was a name that was recognised, and it was recognised because of the virtues he brought to the field of play; his is a great loss, and it is one that will be felt by many around the world. A very sad day.