A nation was left in shock on Sunday when it discovered that Wales manager Gary Speed was found dead at his Cheshire home. He was 42 years old.
Just hours after the news broke Swansea City - the first Welsh team ever to play in the Premier League - paid tribute to one the country's greatest footballing sons with a moving minute-long tribute that began in reverent silence and ended in a heartfelt ovation.
A tearful Shay Given, a close friend of Speed's from their time together at Newcastle, was inconsolable as he took his place in goal for Aston Villa at the Liberty Stadium.
Later that day Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish - who signed Speed for Newcastle in 1998 - confirmed he had decided not to name Craig Bellamy in his squad for one of the club's biggest games of the season, such was the extent of the Wales forward's grief for a man whom Dalglish described as "like a mentor" to Bellamy.
Those are just two examples of how much the former midfielder from the small village of Mancot meant to those in the game. His untimely passing overshadowed everything that happened on the pitch yesterday.
The sense of mourning in his own country was reflected in England, where he spent his entire club career with such distinction. The wide range of figures who formed the flood of tributes, from Howard Wilkinson to Xabi Alonso, show just what an impact Speed had on the game.
For those of a certain age, Speed was someone who was just always there. Whether playing in the white of Leeds and Bolton, the blue of his beloved Everton or the stripes of Newcastle and Sheffield United, Speed the player was a constant across more than two decades which have seen such dramatic change in football.
He did more in his career than any player could reasonably dream of. In 22 years on the pitch he won the league title, played in the FA Cup final, scored in a derby for his boyhood club, captained his country and was awarded an MBE for his outstanding service to the game.
Speed made the first of his 830 professional club appearances for Leeds in 1989 as a 19-year-old, and soon established himself as an integral part of a steely yet gifted midfield which helped end the club's eight-year exile from the top flight by winning the Second Division in 1990. It was as though they had never been away.
Howard Wilkinson's team finished fourth on their first year back in the First Division before winning the title the following year, a quite exceptional achievement the likes of which will never happen again.
In that side which secured Leeds their third championship Speed played alongside David Batty, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan, arguably one of the finest midfield units of the modern era, and an all-British one to boot.
At Elland Road Speed established himself as one of the best and most consistent players in the country. Few midfielders could be relied upon to cover every blade of grass and also to pop up with a well-timed run into the box to head home for his team. In all, he scored 57 goals in his 312 appearances for Leeds.
Speed's eight years at Leeds ended in 1996 when he left for the one club that could prise him away. A boyhood Evertonian, he grew up just 20 miles from Goodison Park. Former Toffees captain Kevin Ratcliffe's house was on his paper round.
"He was mates with my cousin so I used to take them for kickabouts down the end of the street," Ratcliffe told the Evening Standard. "Even at that age he had a beautiful left foot. I thought straight away he had a chance."
When Joe Royle offered £3.5 million - at that time still a significant transfer fee rather than an average player's salary - Speed could not resist.
Speed scored on his debut, and in November that same year he followed up the only hat-trick of his career against Southampton with a late equaliser against Liverpool at Anfield. That season Everton were battling against relegation, and in the run-in Speed scored the only goal to claim a win against Tottenham. Everton avoided the drop by a single point.
However, despite being installed as club captain for his second season on Merseyside, Speed moved to Newcastle the following February, and kept a dignified silence as to his reasons when so many others would have created a fuss.
"You know why I'm leaving," he told the Liverpool Echo, "but I can't explain myself publicly because it would damage the good name of Everton Football Club and I'm not prepared to do that."
During his six years at St James' Park he helped the Magpies twice qualify for the Champions League via finishing fourth in 2001/02 and third a year later.
While the second of those campaigns ended at the qualifying stage, the first saw Newcastle make history in the competition as the first side to lose their first three group games and win their final three, including a victory over Juventus. Sadly for those on Tyneside, that was the year of the ill-conceived second group stage, pitting Speed and co against Internazionale, Barcelona and the previous year's finalists, Bayer Leverkusen. It was a bridge too far for Newcastle, although Speed hardly looked out of place amongst such exalted company.
Speed was one of the few British footballers who paid meticulous attention to nutrition and fitness despite turning professional in an era when 'team bonding' was still a euphemism for players to indulge in a club-endorsed bender together.
As a result he was able to perform at the highest level for an extraordinarily long time. He played a major part in cementing Bolton's Premier League status after joining them at 34 years of age. He made 139 appearances in his four seasons at the Reebok Stadium including his 535th and final Premier League game. Only David James and Ryan Giggs have since passed that mark, a record at the time.
Speed only announced his retirement while at Sheffield United a few weeks after his 41st birthday, in September of last year. By that time, he had already been appointed manager of the Blades, having previously had a player/coach role under Kevin Blackwell.
Despite only being in charge at Bramall Lane for four months, Wales came calling. It was no surprise that he answered.
During his playing career he never eschewed the honour of playing for his country or became embroiled in petty rows as several of his more talented compatriots had done. As a result he won 85 caps over the course of 14 years representing Wales, a record for an outfield player.
After a tough start in the dugout for Speed - with back-to-back defeats to Ireland and England - Wales slumped to 117th in the FIFA rankings, their lowest ever position. He responded by instilling a renewed sense of belief among his young players and made Aaron Ramsey captain. Perhaps he saw something of himself in the young Arsenal midfielder, but the move worked.
Despite losing again to England, it was a much-improved performance, with Ramsey showing plenty of the commitment and drive at Wembley that characterised Speed's career. In all, Speed's Wales won five of their 10 matches under him, including each of their last three, and reached the world's top 50.
From sitting in the press conferences he gave after those two games against England, it was abundantly clear just how highly regarded he was among the media as well as those inside the game.
Never short of work as a pundit, he always had something worthwhile to say, as you would expect from a man who played more than 1,300 hours of professional football.
However, the impact of Speed's death on the future of Welsh football is an issue for another time. This is no time to speculate as to the circumstances surrounding such a tragic loss and needless waste of life. Perhaps that time will never come, and nor should it. His wife, two children and those others close to him deserve the privacy and time to mourn their loss.
All we as fans of football can do is remember Gary Speed as a shining example to any aspiring player of how to do things the right way, and a man who gave so much to the game we all love.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Gary had none of those things which we associate with sportsmen. He was ordinary as a bloke, very nice, very genuine, very honest, very hardworking. He was a joy to manage. I think I played Gary in every position apart from goalkeeper, and never even once did his face change or did he seem annoyed when I told him." - Any of the scores of tributes paid to Speed by those who worked with him could have been chosen here, but this one from Howard Wilkinson sums up the man perfectly.
FOREIGN VIEW: Sadly, Speed's passing was not the only tragedy to befall football on Sunday. A bus carrying the players and staff of a Togo top-flight football club has crashed, killing at least six people. The Togo Football Federation confirmed the fatalities, as well as 25 "serious injuries", after the team bus of Etoile Filante crashed en route to an away match on Saturday. The incident occurred approximately 100 miles north of the capital Lome with reports claiming the bus fell into a ravine and burst into flames after a tyre burst.
COMING UP: We have all the goals from another thrilling weekend in the Premier League available for you watch right here, and you will get your chance to vote for our Goal of the Week as well as peruse our Team of the Week.
We will also be bringing you the latest blogs from Paul Parker and Pitchside Europe.