World Cup - Paper Round: Gary Speed remembered
The tragic death of Gary Speed dominates both back and front pages of the papers on Monday morning, with outpourings of grief for a man loved and respected throughout the game.
"Why? Why? Why?" asks the back page of the Daily Mirror, while The Sun's entire front page is reserved for a tribute: "There's only 1 Gary Speed," runs the headline, leading with tributes from fellow Welsh legends Ryan Giggs and John Hartson.
Hartson pays a moving tribute to his late friend in the same paper: "Gary Speed was a pal, a team-mate, my captain, my brother and at times a dad to me. I idolised him, even though he was only five years older than me. As a man and as a footballer he seemed to have everything - and in the coming weeks you will see this sentiment pour out from the hearts of every person he knew and every club he played for."
In the Daily Mirror another friend of Speed's, Robbie Savage, also remembers the man: "I'm looking at the headlines and I still can't believe it. My captain, my hero, my mate is gone and I can't understand why. He had the world at his feet and the ironic thing is that he was the guy you would always go to if you ever had a problem... The first time I met him was when I was called up to the Wales squad for the first time. Some of the other veteran players looked down on me because I was a scrawny kid who played for Crewe, but not him. He treated me the same as if I was Ian Rush or Mark Hughes and that made me feel 10 feet tall. As a leader and a captain, he was unbeatable. He had skill but he worked his heart out too."
The Daily Mail's Michael Walker sums up the sense of disbelief that Speed could take his own life: "Nothing prepares you for this. Nothing prepares anyone for any part of this. It is too soon and raw to be writing about Gary Speed's death but then it will always be too soon and raw. The very thought of Gary Speed no longer being around is troubling on every level and it is hard to think of a time when it will not be. No matter which way you turn there is a smack of incomprehension. Because this was not Gary Speed. This was not Gary Speed. Gary Speed was full of life. It's no cliche, he was."
In the Daily Telegraph, former team-mate and FAW colleague Ian Rush pays tribute to Speed's quick success in his second career as a manager: "To see his life cut short just as his management career was blossoming is tragic. I saw first hand just how much it meant to Gary to lead his country and for us to keep improving. As well as working with him at the Welsh FA, I was a team-mate at Newcastle United and for the Welsh national team. He was brought up not too far from where I was born in North Wales so we always felt we had a lot in common and shared a passion for doing everything we could for our country. The description 'model professional' could have been written for him... When I took the call informing me of Gary's death, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I thought the person on the other end of the line must have made some grim, horrible mistake. Everyone in football who knew Gary will say what a lovely person and a real gentlemen he was. He'll be sorely missed by everyone who had the honour of knowing him. "
Along with the outpourings of grief there is also a sense of mystery about what happened to drive a man who seemingly had everything to live for to take his own life. From The Times's front page story: " To regular viewers who tuned into the BBC's Football Focus on Saturday there was nothing obviously wrong with the young international manager lauded for reversing his team's ailing fortunes. But hours later, Gary Speed committed suicide in the garage of his £2 million home. A sporting idol and adoring father of two boys, Ed aged 14 and Tommy, 13, he left fans and fellow professionals asking 'why?'."
The same paper tries to answer that very question, with football correspondent Oliver Kay drawing parallels with the suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke two years ago, coming to the conclusion that, "as an industry, football does not know how to deal with mental health issues."
Those issues will no doubt be trawled over more thoroughly in the coming weeks, but for now the world of football is still in mourning for a wonderful man. We leave the last word to Howard Wilkinson, Speed's manager at Leeds when they won the title together, writing in the Guardian: "His horrendous passing represents an unbelievable loss to his family and the football world. He leaves a huge, huge void and I can't begin to try to think what his parents, his lovely wife, Louise, and his boys are going through at this time. I'm finding this very, very difficult to come to terms with. It's unbelievable. I'm still struggling to get my head round it.
"He was a terrific footballer, not as naturally gifted as some, but he worked so hard, listened to advice and made the very most of everything he had. As a man, I've rarely come across a better, more balanced or more genuine person.
"Gary's death is a mystery - Gary McAllister says that, on Saturday, he seemed his normal, bright self - but these men are not born footballers. Like everyone else, they had a talent and football became their job but basically they are born human and subject to all the stress and strains and the good things that happen to people in life. My thoughts are with his family."