Sometimes people who have lived for a certain time begin to think that there is nothing left to shock them – they can deal with whatever goes on in life with a world weary shrug as they think “I’ve seen it all before”. I’ve been guilty of thinking like that at times, but today’s devastating news about Wales manager Gary Speed offers all the proof you need of life’s never ending capacity to surprise (although “surprise” is, in truth, too mild a word to use to describe the news that has left me in something of a stunned trance today).
If learning of the death of a true Welsh sporting hero at the age of just forty two wasn’t bad enough, it’s now being reported in various news outlets like the Daily Telegraph, that Speed took his own life. But, surely Gary Speed was one of those rare individuals who had it all? Good enough to be one of those footballers whose ability gets taken for granted after a while (it was almost impossible to see a weakness in his game when he was at his peak), making a very promising start in a job he, obviously, wanted to do, but, more than that, he had a loving family and the virtually unanimous respect of his peers and those who had never met him, but knew him through his football and media appearances (he was only on Football Focus yesterday when he appeared his usual, relaxed and informative, self) – he was also ridiculously good looking!
However, it would appear that, below the surface, all was not as it seemed – I can only guess as to the reason for this, but it wouldn’t altogether surprise me if he was the latest in a pretty lengthy list of sportsmen and women who have found the transformation from player to ex-player a difficult one to adjust to. Whatever, now is not really the time to speculate about such things – I’d just like to say thank you Gary Speed for being the sort of player that proved that the widely held cynical and unflattering opinion of those in your profession is not always justified, thank you for being someone who was always there for Wales, no matter how meaningless the fixture looked (unlike so many others who were not fit to lace your boots) and thank you for being one of those responsible for putting the smile back onto the face of Welsh International football over the past eleven months or so.
It’s been said by others that news of Gary Speed’s passing has effected them almost as much as a death in the family does – I agree with that. I can’t remember the last time the death of a “celebrity” has had an effect like this on me – RIP Gary Speed and sincere condolences to your friends and family.