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Posted by Jack Dowden on 12/01/2011

Where do I start? This will be both the easiest and hardest thing I will write this year. On Sunday 27th November 2011, a wife lost a husband, children lost a father, football lost a gentleman and Evertonians lost a Blue. Even as I write this I’m still overwhelmed with emotion and welling up at the tragic passing of Gary Speed.

It’s a strange feeling, we’re not related, in fact I never met the man and he had a very short stay with Everton but somehow the shocking news of his apparent suicide left me overcome with sadness and almost numb.

Speedo was always one of those players who you thought was older than they actually were, mainly due to their careers taking off so early. As I was growing up he was always in my consciousness, with the Leeds team of 1991\92 being the 1st championship winning side, I remember as I was just about 8 years old at the time.

Until he moved across the Pennines to Merseyside in 1996 I had no idea of his affinity towards Everton. I do recall the day he put pen to paper, the excitement of having a player of Gary’s calibre in our side was immense, a true Marquee signing. He could play left, right, down the middle, he could smash a 30 yarder or deftly weave into the box, the ultimate Midfielder and all for £3.5m. I realise the differences in transfer fees between the last 15 years but what would a player that possesses that skill set fetch now, the mind boggles.

Gary Speed lived the dream, playing, scoring and captaining his boyhood team. His goal to game ratio is the best of his career, averaging around a goal every 3 games, he loved playing for the Toffees and you could see it, at that time we had some wonderful footballers all hitting their peaks, the infamous demolition of Southampton demonstrating the squads depth and talent under Joe Royle.

I never really understood why Gary left Goodison Park until now. I have a great sense of guilt that I didn’t pay much attention to his career following his departure, astonished and disillusioned that a captain could abandon his team in their most desperate hour of need. For this I am eternally sorry, from what I understand now, the way Gary was treated by the then hierarchy is nothing short of abysmal. He gave his all for the Royal Blue and received nothing but a non-disclosure agreement in return.

It speaks volumes for the man that he never spoke up as he didn’t want to tarnish the image of the club he adored so much. Everton’s loss was Newcastle’s gain and every other club who were lucky enough to have him in their ranks after that. I have friends who are fans of Leeds, Newcastle and Bolton who all think very highly of Gary Speed, if I asked a Sheffield United supporter I’m sure they hold him with the same esteem.

He appeared to love life and especially the game, as I watched Football Focus again after hearing the news, there was no obvious signs that this was a man ready to make the ultimate decision. His closest colleagues are equally shocked as they are called into interviews for their memories of their friend. Maybe it begs the question how well can you ever really know someone?

Whatever the reasons for his death, he’ll always be remembered as a wonderful footballer and a wonderful man. I’ll be standing and applauding Gary Speed at Goodison Park on Sunday and I may shed a tear or two for the man who clearly touched my life more than I ever knew.

Thank you Speedo, you will be sorely missed.

Jacko

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Comments

Posted by Sack the Juggler on 12/01/2011

Lovely words Jacko, you have to feel for his family, the grief being felt across football is nothing compared to their loss. Christ its so hard thinking of him not being here, and even harder not understanding why. I hope we can piece together his last few hours and find out what it was that tipped him over the edge. RIP Gary, you were loved.

Posted by Mal on 12/01/2011

Superb article and it reminds me of myself in every way. Yes i sung the song about Gary being a shithouse, but i never followed the story enough and i truely truely regret it now. He deserves the best ovation ever. RIP Speedo, a footballing (and in some way Everton) legend

Posted by R.I.P Gary Speed on 12/01/2011

Really nice words mate. Very well put. I have been feeling the same and I don't support any of the teams he played for just appreciated what he brought to the Premier League for all those years. Such a great player and more importantly a great man. He will be forever missed. Love you Gary.

Posted by Dawn boyle on 12/01/2011

Very moving article. I meet him once years ago being a leeds United fan. My heart goes out to his wife and children. I went through and am still going through the same thing. This happen to me in June last year. I lost my son aged 40. I have some answers but not all and never wil. Speedo had the same haunted look in his eyes that my son had. My son loved his life holidays adventures but the haunted eyes say it all. God love you Gary and I hooe you are at rest and peace and mostly god love and take care of your family.

Posted by Den on 12/01/2011

A beautifully written piece that sums up how many of us feel. Let's show his family what he meant to us on Sunday and make some noise for once!

Posted by Paul Ashcroft on 12/01/2011

I still remember school holidays, making the 30 minute trip to Bellfield to see my heroes and get their autographs. Of course Gary Speed was one of them.

Posted by sarah on 12/02/2011

a heartfelt tribute.

i felt it when he was treated badly by our fans.

i am ashamed that i did not take more of an interest in his career and as him as a person. going by every single one of the many accounts he was an incredibly rare, amazing human being.

Rest in peace.

Posted by mrkent on 12/02/2011

Excellent article sums up ecxactly how I'm feeling and I'm sure many other blues and just genral fans of football a model proffessional which I'm sure a lot off young footballers would do well to emulate my thought r with his family and that gary speed will be sorely missed but his memory will live on in the thoughts of every fan off the beautiful game R.I.P gary

Posted by Grum on 12/02/2011

Nice one Jacko. I'm not an Everton fan (I'm a Scot and support Hearts) and my English team is West Brom, but I think the vast majority of us have been touched by this tragic passing of one of footballs good guys! Still can't get my head around this after watching him being so positive less than 24 hours before on TV!! My heart truly goes out to his wife & 2 boys. RIP Gary Speed

Posted by Joe on 12/02/2011

great piece, speed was one of those players I think was taken for granted. Absolutely class, he has a goal for Newcastle where he smashed it in from just outside the box, top top goal. I hate all the speculation, but I just a feeling speed was a guy who missed playing. Who knows.

Posted by Lee on 12/02/2011

Nicely written. We will never know why. I hated reading all the speculations out there. I am just thankful we had 23 years of great football from him and I will always remember him. It must be difficult for him to wake up recently and not have to rush to the training grounds. I read on his website how he finally got to spend Christmas with his family and actually drinking some spirits because in the past he always had a game the next day. Finally he gets to relax and enjoy life with his family - and now no more. Hope you are in peace Gary - and hope your family will accept, forgive and move on their lives in peace as well. One Gary Speed!!!

Posted by Toffee Dan on 12/03/2011

I feel I must go on record to say that, on Sunday, at Goodison, we, the fans, will be both honouring a great Evertonian & finally - in some small way - righting a wrong by affording Gary the adulation & an accolade that a great footballer & great Evertonian fully deserved but which, through unfortunate circumstances will never be able to fully appreciate. May He Rest in Peace.

Posted by Sue Dowden on 12/03/2011

A beautifully written tribute Jacko.
I am very proud of you
Love Mum.

Posted by Dan on 12/03/2011

Great article Jacko. I think the loss of Gary touched everybody who loves football. It's strange to think that someone would do that to themselves and their family just a few hours after you saw them live on TV.
I like that Wales have decided to keep the 'speed' attitude to playing football.
I hope that perhaps some good would come of this, in raising awareness of quite how devastating depression can be to friends, family and most of all to the person suffering it.

Posted by Joyboy on 12/03/2011

Well said Jack, a fitting tribute mate.

MOT

Posted by howly c on 12/03/2011

brilliant jack,you done him proud.
god rest his soul

Posted by Stuart Clenahan on 12/04/2011

Jacko, let me echo Mum. A beautifully written tribute - I'm proud of you. Thanks Jacko. RIP Gary - we are ALL in shock.

Stu.

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About
Jack Dowden Jack Dowden - I was around 20 when I realised if I was to pursue my interest in the beautiful game it would probably be best for all involved that I stayed as far away from the pitch as possible. After several years searching for my niche within the game, I stumbled across Blogging, which brings together perfectly my two strengths and passions, English and Football. As the French Philosopher Rene Descartes proclaimed, "I Blog, therefore I am", or words to that effect!

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