One question that is being constantly repeated in the media and in sporting circles here in the UK at the moment is: why did Gary Speed kill himself? The talented, well-liked ex-footballer and last manager of the Welsh national team hanged himself in the garage of his home just over a week ago. Since then, there have been many glowing tributes paid to the man, a man who seemed to have everything to live for and that is why the country has been left to ponder the obvious question.
Speed played for, and captained, the club he once supported (Everton) as a boy – realising what must surely be every boy’s dream. In addition, he played for Leeds United, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United. Gary won 85 caps for Wales, was captain of the side until he retired and won a 1st Division medal with Leeds United in the 1991-2 season. More recently, he had seen some success in his role as the Welsh national team manager.
Appearing on Football Focus just before his death and talking in an upbeat fashion about the future, his death came as a complete surprise to everyone concerned. But it seems that Gary Speed was not a man to wear his heart on his sleeve. Personally, I find the comment he made when he was leaving Everton to be most enlightening with regard to the kind of man he was. At the time, he was reported, in the Liverpool Echo, as saying: “I can’t explain myself publicly because it would damage the good name of Everton Football Club and I’m not prepared to do that.”
Now that comment suggests that Gary was a man who was prepared to keep things to himself if he felt it was the right thing to do. It quite naturally raises the possibility that whatever caused him to make the decision to end his life was something he felt he could not discuss publically. That is why so many people have been left asking the question: why? It was exactly the question that Mark Lawrenson said his own son had asked when he heard the sad news and, in recounting the story, Mark was himself echoing the same sentiment.
There is, no doubt, a reason that he committed suicide, but because of the kind of person he was, it seems that Gary Speed felt unable to discuss that reason with even his closest friends. That raises the question: will we ever know what that reason was? There is a possibility that the reason will subsequently emerge. It seems that he was in the process of writing two books. One of them was an autobiography in which he had promised to be completely frank. The incomplete manuscript may yet yield valuable insight into his thoughts immediately before the recent tragic event.
As many of my regular blog readers may know, Everton FC is my own team. I was born just a stones-throw away from Goodison Park and you could see the floodlights from my bedroom window. Sometimes, in football, people come along and touch our hearts because of the way they played the game, with style and skill, but also in the right spirit, with honesty and fairness. Gary Speed was such a player and he will be remembered fondly by all true supporters, everywhere.