Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Gifted Icon of the Premier League Era

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Gifted Icon of the Premier League Era

Article excerpt

AS a manager Gary Speed had only just started the job of rebuilding the Wales national side, but he had already ensured a lasting legacy as one of the finest players of his generation.

Although he started his career before the advent of the Premier League era he quickly established himself as one of its icons, becoming one of English football's most consistent performers during spells with Leeds United, Everton, Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United.

He later dropped down a division to play for Sheffield United, where he accepted his first management job before moving on to manage his country.

Speed, who was 42, leaves a wife Louise, and two sons.

By the time he joined Newcastle for pounds 5.5m, Speed was already regarded as one of the game's most cultured midfielders. But in 285 appearances for the Magpies he emerged as a genuine leader too.

Speed (pictured right) gave the club six years of outstanding service in a variety of positions and was one of its most reliable players during a period which saw him work under three different managers in his first three seasons.

Despite the turmoil, Newcastle reached successive FA Cup finals in 1998 and 1999. When Bobby Robson brought stability, Speed played in the club's last and most successful Champions League campaign, in 2002-03. It spoke of his qualities as a person as well as a player that when he left Newcastle the farewell was as fond as his arrival from Everton had been uneasy.

Speed began his professional career in Leeds, where he soon became a vital part of a midfield marshalled by Gordon Strachan and Gary McAllister.

Both had a big influence on Speed and it speaks volumes about the sense of professionalism and focus on conditioning that drove the trio on that all three played until their 40th birthdays.

The First Division title came to Elland Road in 1992, with Speed aged only 22, quickly followed by success in the Charity Shield.

Few would have predicted it at the time, but despite the acclaim lavished upon him over the subsequent 12 years, he never again claimed a winner's medal. …

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