RIP Gary Speed, 1969–2011

This week’s news that former Wales and Premier League star Gary Speed had committed suicide was as mysterious as it was shocking.

The former winger, who stands third on the alltime list of Premiership appearances (behind David James and Ryan Giggs), hanged himself at his home, 45 miles outside of Manchester, just hours after appearing on television and taking in a game at Old Trafford with former teammate Alan Shearer.

Dan Walker, the host of Football Focus, the BBC program Speed had taped on the afternoon of Nov 26, described the Welshman as being “in fine form.”

Shearer sensed nothing amiss while the pair watched Man U take on their old club, Newcastle, at Old Trafford. Speaking to the Daily Mail, the former England striker described Speed as follows:

“[He was] happy, joking. We were having the normal mickey taking that we do out of each other and having a laugh and joke about golf trips and holidays that we went on together last year. We were planning our next holiday in Portugal next summer with the families and the kids.”

Speed leaves behind his wife, Louise, 41, and sons Edward, 14, and Thomas, 13.

Wales FA Chief Jonathan Ford said “we may never know” the reasons for Speed’s action, and those who knew Speed well insisted he was not suffering from depression.

Whether or not Speed was battling depression, his death could serve to raise awareness of that illness. Incredibly, the night before Speed’s suicide, another famous former Premier League star, Stan Collymore, posted a long essay to his Twitter feed, detailing his own battles with the disease (h/t to Martin del Palacio at BigSoccer).

You can read the entire post here. Below are a couple of eloquent excerpts:

“If your mind is empty, your brain ceases to function, your body is pinned to the bed, the future is a dark room with no light and this is your reality, it takes a massive leap of faith to know that this time next week, life could be running again, smiling, my world big and my brain back as it should be. So what do some do? They don’t take the leap of faith, they address a practical problem with a practical solution to them, and that is taking their own life. And sadly, too many take that route out of this hell”.

“I’m typing and my brain is full, cloudy and detached but I know I need to elaborate on what I’m going through because there are so many going through this that need to know it’s an illness, just an illness. Not bad, mad, crazy or weak, just ill.”

By serving to amplify Collymore’s message, and raising awareness of the issue, the awful coincidence of Speed’s suicide could have a silver lining.

Now here’s a clip of fans of Leeds United, where Speed began his career in 1988, chanting “Ohh Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary Speed” at the club’s match yesterday:

They started in the 11th minute (Speed wore No. 11) and kept it going for 11 minutes.