I popped down to my local pub back in Birmingham yesterday afternoon to watch the Swansea v Villa game with an old school friend.
I got to the pub looked up at the tv screen to see the players having a minute silence. I asked my friend what this was all about, before he told me Gary Speed was dead. My first word was WHAT!!!
It's not everyday you hear news that leaves you totally stunned. For anyone who's into football, you can't think of a more unbelievable thing to happen. It makes no sense and comes totally out of the blue. The fact that he took his own life raises even more questions which may never be answered.
There's a few famous ex footballers who've had well documented problems with depression, drink and drugs. Without naming names, if you woke up to discover their death you'd be shocked but perhaps not hugely surprised.
The thing about Gary Speed, was that he appeared to be a solid, level headed and well respected professional without any previous stories of off the field problems. This is what makes his death so shocking and sad.
Gary Speed the footballer
As a footballer, I remember Speed being part of the Leeds Utd team that came up from the old Second division at the end of the 80s and took the old first division by storm, winning the League title in 1992.
He was a bit of a pretty boy footballer at the time, the type of player girls would fancy even if they weren't into football.
Throughout the Premier League era, Speed was always a permanent fixture, going on to play for Everton, Newcastle and Bolton. My appreciation of Speed as a footballer really started to develop during his later years at Bolton. Here was someone playing well into their late 30s at the highest level and not looking out of place.
To play in the top flight continuously for more than 20 years tells you a lot about his professionalism and passion for the game. I think that's what I really admire about him as a player, he wasn't a celebrity footballer, but just a great professional.
This whole story is incredibly sad.