Gary Speed never played for my club, or to my memory had any real connection with us – yet as many other football fans around the country are no doubt experiencing this week, his death has effected me more than any other public figure before.
Having started watching football in the early 90’s, Gary Speed has just always been there. He seemed to be one of those footballers that was never disliked by other clubs; got the job done and was a decent and hardworking professional to boot. He was your archetypal box-to-box midfielder – tenacious in the tackle, good going forward and someone who played first and foremost for his team. The floods of tributes that have appeared over the last few days, as club loyalties are abandoned, reflect on how highly thought of he was, as a person as well as a footballer.
I’m not aware of what scurrilous rumours have no doubt started appearing on the internet, and have no desire to know, but what must not happen over the coming days and weeks is the type of finger pointing and blame attachment that the press and ultimately the masses will clamour for. Having said that, the bewildering nature of his death has shocked me as it has thousands and thousands of others, and although it’s ultimately no business of ours to know what went on, it seems that I along with so many others need a reason of some sorts, if only to alleviate the fear of how quickly and how sudden it was.
What’s clear is that there must have been something fundamentally wrong for a man who seemingly had it all to do this. If one good can come out of this it should be that there are options out there – whether it be the Samaritans, online discussion groups, people to talk to – more awareness HAS to be given to these as there has to be another way. Robert Enke’s suicide last year in Germany has escalated a need for the mental health of players to be addressed over there, and I’d like to think this will be mirrored here now, not just for players but in society in general.
Ultimately, British football may have lost one of it’s great servants from the last two decades as well as several more to come, but a wife and two teenage boys have lost their husband and father for the rest of their lives. We may never know why, but we must do everything possible to prevent similar happening again – whether it be your hero worshipped footballer on Match of the Day or your average punter on the terraces, they might just need help.