Monday, 28 November 2011
The Need For Speed
I’ve got nowt funny to say today. Not one word humorous comment. Some of you’ll reckon there’s no change there, then.
If you think of Gary Speed you think of a chest-out midfielder with a great left peg; you think of the classic football cliché of a lad who had a great leap for a small man; you think of a Leeds team that somehow won the Premier League; you think of a committed international footballer and a manager who recognised that Wales have a generation of young footballers headed by Bale and Ramsey who are capable of doing special things.
And even the most heterosexual of men can acknowledge that the man was as easy on the eye as sun sparkling off a Spanish sea.
You’d have thought that with all that going for him the man would have every right to be the sort of cocky wanker that sometimes appears to blight the modern game.
I know in such circumstances you’re not going to hear a bad word said about someone, but even then some wiseacre’ll say summat out the corner of his mouth if there was anything that you needed reminding of. To be fair that’d usually be me.
But no, Gary Speed was adored. What makes this tragedy deeper is the fact that he was so deeply loved by all who played with him and watched him.
That’s a pretty hard ask when he played for a fair few clubs. Club loyalty is not what it was and football fans don’t have much time for the modern mercenary who tears around from club to club in his latest playing-card-thin Italian sports car, his agent trailing behind him with an open suitcase to collect the £50 notes that are streaming out of the boot.
Speed played for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle... not clubs where temporary residence is welcomed. And still he commanded respect and adulation.
There’s nothing about this story that leaves you with anything other than a sense of sadness and even despair. Second only to his friends and family will be the players he was managing at international level.
Welsh football has had a fickle old relationship with its gaffers for many years, with John Toshack popping up like an unwelcome uncle at a family wedding. Speed, after a not-too-successful stint at Bramall Lane, took over and the change has been really something.
He leaves a team brimming with belief, immensely capable, and as pleasant to look at as the manager himself. Lord knows who’s going to keep that going, but I hope that that legacy is not lost along with the way.
As a side-issue, one of my least favourite pundits has come out of this with renewed respect. I heard Robbie Savage on the 5Live phone-in and what came across was a genuine friend in a state of utter grief. And given what folks say about Speed it’s unlikely that he’d form such a firm friendship with a pillock. Savage has been honourable, sincere and his bewilderment at this loss just compounds our collective sense of shock.
It’s impossible to even speculate as to what might be the reason for his suicide – and that’s not for the likes of me to consider any road. His death has, however, come at a time when the Leveson enquiry has unveiled case after case of immoral pillaging of people’s private lives in search of a scoop.
And once the shock has faded, the questions will be asked, and let’s just hope and pray that the phones will remain untapped, the bins untroubled, the kids unpestered. Let’s face it there’s been some devastating tragedies in recent years that have had your average reptilian hack salivating like a komodo dragon with a poisoned buffalo in its vicinity.
RIP. Let him rest in peace. Let the family grieve in peace. They will want to know why he took his own life, but the rest of us don’t need to.
Like I say, I’ll remember Speed as a footballer. Those that know him remember him as a great colleague. Football isn’t that important, but it’s good, even in those tragic of circumstances, that it can be populated by some dedicated, gifted and thoroughly decent human beings. Though whether there are any better than Speed is highly unlikely.