Gary Speed: He was a legend

By James Masters and Simon Griver, December 1, 2011
Joe Jacobson

Joe Jacobson

Gary Speed was "a legend and a hero", according to former Wales Under 21 star Joe Jacobson.

Shrewsbury defender Jacobson spent his childhood in awe of Speed's ability and was left shocked by his death on Sunday. Speed, who won the First Division title with Leeds made 85 appearances for Wales.

But it's in the red of Wales which Jacobson remembers him best and says the former national team boss was an inspiration to millions.

"Gary had just retired from international football when I broke into the Under 21 side but everybody still talked about him," he said.

"I wish I had managed to work with him because nobody had a bad word to say about him. He was a legend for Wales and because he played on the left and often at left-back for Wales, I always used to watch him.

"He had a wand of a left foot and wore his heart on his sleeve. He was an inspirational leader and was loved in Wales.

"I'll always remember him as someone who got stuck in, showed his determination and never lacked in courage or effort. It's just so sad because from the outside looking in it looked like he had a great life."

Idan Tal

Idan Tal

Speed, who was found dead at his home in Cheshire on Sunday aged 42, had won his last three games in charge of Wales since taking over in 2010.

And Jacobson says he was on his way to transforming football within the Welsh nation with his side defeating Norway 4-1 in what was to be his final game in charge.

"You just had to look at the way Wales were playing under Gary to see how much they had improved," he added. "They played some great stuff and were getting results and it was because he was inspiring the players.

"Since he took over, the players have looked confident and that's because he gave them that confidence and that belief."

Israel international Idan Tal has fond memories of playing alongside Speed at Bolton in 2007.

"He was an amazing person, the type you always go to for advice. He helped me so much in settling in at Bolton and I simply cannot understand how someone still young and a national team manager, could do such a thing.

"Everybody who knew him understood what a special guy he was, and it hurts so much to think about the way he ended his life."

    Last updated: 3:42pm, December 1 2011