Driving back from London yesterday we heard the news that ex-Newcastle United player Gary Speed apparently took his own life. This terrible news was greeted with general horror and shock that such a well adjusted and stable person had seemingly chosen to commit suicide. So much was the shock that my mam almost crashed the car, and it took a while for me to accept that it was true. It is still hard to comprehend and I cannot begin to imagine what his family and friends are going through. All we can do is offer our best wishes and pay tribute to a man who touched many lives and who lived his life as well as anyone would love to aspire to do.
In his time at Newcastle United I got to know Gary pretty well, we weren’t close friends but I would often see him at various events and dinners, and he would always stop to talk. We had great mutual respect for each other as sportsmen. Gary was generous with his time, no more so than when he came all the way to the Benedictine social club in Cramlington to do a charity talk-in for Cerebral Palsy Sport as a personal favour to me. He came on his own with no club official guarding him or insisting how long he could stay, he got lost on the way but calmly stopped at a local petrol station to ask where to go. Once Gary got to the Bene we took to the stage together and answered questions from the floor. All the questions were for Gary, probably because I knew pretty much everyone in the room and everyone was so excited that Gary Speed had come to their club. Gary stayed for hours, he was comfortable and light-hearted, we raised over £1000 that night and people still talk about it now as it was such a great night.
Gary had a difficult start to his NUFC career but he ended it a hero, which sums up his character. I hadn’t seen Gary for many years but I know had our paths crossed he would’ve come straight over to talk and ask how my throwing was going. I was gutted when he left NUFC, you could not help but to look up to Gary Speed, a man who was everything to aspire to. He was a man who gave so much to so many people, and a life that ended far too soon.
We might never know why this terrible thing happened, but we will remember Gary.