Rest in peace Gary Speed MBE, I hope you’ve found the tranquility you were looking for.
Gary was a great professional player, national team manager, true ambassador for the sport of football and an incredibly humble and genuine person. Football will remember and miss you deeply.
Petulant prima donnas, designer labels and glamorous girlfriends usually dominate popular perceptions of an industry more than happy to revel in its position as the world’s most popular sport. How can anybody on the surreal wages commanded by top players possibly struggle with mental illness? Depression has yet to be positively confirmed as an element of Gary’s death, but for a 42-year-old fit and healthy man to be allegedly found hanged at home surrounded by his family, has to suggest a deeply troubled, if apparently successful role model of a professional athlete.
I was lucky to have briefly met Gary a couple of times during my days at Everton FC, and also a certain Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne. Of the two I can’t think of anybody that would have bet a single penny on Paul out living Gary, but the world is a crazy place sometimes, often making no sense. The solitude of depression and its ability to completely debilitate outwardly appearing robust people should never be underestimated.
The Secret Footballer wrote in Friday’s Guardian Sport Blog, a scarily premonitory post about the “darkness behind the limelight” offering a glimpse into a hidden world of mental illness in an alpha male world.
The sheer scale of the shock and devastation across sport may lead to Gary being remembered as much for the cause of his final moments as his sporting talents.