Gary Speed: Wales footballer death explained, when did he die, did he have a wife?

Gary Speed was regarded as one of the greatest ever Welsh footballers

Football fans from around the world have paid tribute to former Wales footballer and manager Gary Speed who died 11 years ago.

Speed died aged 42 at his home in Wales. He was the manager of the Welsh national team at the time of his death and was also a regular pundit on football programmes such as Football Focus.

Wales are currently competing in their first World Cup since 1958 and the team held a minute’s silence in tribute to Speed to commemorate the 11th anniversary of his death.

Here we take a look back at the life and times of Gary Speed and how Welsh football paid tribute to one of its greatest ever players.

Who was Gary Speed?

Speed was a professional footballer who played as a midfielder for the Welsh national team. Over the course of his career he had a total of 85 caps for his country.

Speed is the sixth highest appearance holder in Premier League history and featured in a remarkable 535 games over the course of his 22 year career as a player.

Speed was regarded as one of the most talented Welsh footballers of his generation and he was ever-present in the early years of the Premier League for the likes of Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United. The Welsh midfielder went on to manage Sheffield United before being appointed manager of the Wales national team.

Speed was the manager of Wales for 11 months before his death and many football experts have described him as the catalyst for the change in fortunes of the national team.

Early career

Speed began his football career at Leeds United and signed his first professional contract in June 1988, shortly after leaving school.

He emerged from a talented Leeds United youth team alongside future England international David Batty. As a youth team player, Speed was credited for his versatility and he was capable of helping the team in several different areas of the pitch.

The Welsh midfielder made his first team debut for Leeds in 1988 and by the 1989/90 season he had established himself as a first team regular. Speed was a member of the Leeds team which won promotion to the First Division in 1990.

Leeds United returned to the First Division in 1990 for the first time since 1982. Howard Wilkinson’s side enjoyed an impressive first season back in the top-flight by finishing 4th. The West Yorkshire side continued to improve the following campaign and Gary Speed was an integral part of a midfield group which consisted of Gordon Strachan, Gary McAlister and David Batty. Leeds United were crowned league champions in 1991/92 - becoming the final winners of the First Division before it was rebranded as the Premier League.

Speed spent a further four years at Elland Road before leaving to join his boyhood club Everton in 1996.

Later career

Gary Speed completed a move to Everton in 1996 and became a key figure for the club under manager Joe Royle. The Wales international was a key figure for The Toffees in his debut campaign and was the joint top scorer with nine goals in the league. Everton narrowly avoided relegation in his first season by finishing 15th and Speed left The Blues mid-way through his second season to join Newcastle.

Speed joined Newcastle United in January 1998 and was a member of the team which progressed to the FA Cup final under Kenny Dalglish. Speed played the full 90 minutes of the final during a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. The following season Speed also reached the FA Cup final with the Magpies but again fell to a 2-0 defeat with treble winners Manchester United lifting the historic trophy.

Gary Speed was a key player for Newcastle during his six year stay at the club. (Getty Images)Gary Speed was a key player for Newcastle during his six year stay at the club. (Getty Images)
Gary Speed was a key player for Newcastle during his six year stay at the club. (Getty Images)

Newcastle United were bottom of the table at the start of the 1999/2000 season and turned to former England manager Bobby Robson in the hopes of turning the clubs fortunes around.

Robson enjoyed great success as manager of Newcastle and transformed the Magpies from relegation candidates to title contenders within just two seasons. During this time Speed emerged as an integral player at the club at the heart of the midfield. Young players at the time such as Kieron Dyer and Jermain Jenas claimed that Speed was an influential figure and a leader in the dressing room.

Speed spent a total of six years at Newcastle United before leaving the club in 2004 to join Bolton Wanderers. Speed became an integral player for The Trotters under the management of Sam Allardyce and helped the Lancashire side qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history.

The Welsh midfielder joined Sheffield United in 2007 and was player and coach for the South Yorkshire side during the final four years of his career.

Managerial Career

Gary Speed was appointed manager of Sheffield United in 2010 and spent 18 games in charge of the side. He left the club after just 4 months to take on the challenge of managing Wales.

Gary Speed was appointed manager of Wales in December 2010 and at the time the nation had its lowest ever FIFA ranking of 117th. Speed was in charge of Wales for 11 months and during this time he helped harness the potential of young players such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

Was he married?

Gary Speed married his fiance Louise in 1996: the couple had two children Thomas and Edward.

When did he die?

Gary Speed was found dead on the 27 November 2011 - just one day after his appearance on the BBC One programme Football Focus.

His wife Louise found Speed in the garage of his home at around 7am. Although the facts were not fully established, it was reported at the time that Speed’s death had been a suicide.

What have people said about Gary Speed since his death?

The death of Gary Speed was an event which touched many football fans and players around the world.

Former Football Focus host Dan Walker tweeted a tribute to Gary Speed on his Twitter. During the video Walker reflects on Speed’s character and describes him as a “kind bloke” who had always been interested in “other people”. He is described as the type of player that many people would go to if they had a problem and a caring person.

Speed appeared on Football Focus alongside Dan Walker just one day before his death. Walker recalls that Speed was on good form as usual and that nobody could anticipate what was going to happen at the time. Walker said: “I just couldn’t fathom what had happened particularly after the day we had together before.”