SHEFFIELD United supporters this week paid tribute to former manager, coach and player Gary Speed by leaving scarves, shirts, flags and messages at the ground.
A shrine emerged in the South Stand car park at Bramall Lane as club officials joined fans in expressing their shock and sadness at his death at the age of 42.
Sheffield United Fans’ Alliance said: “It’s incredibly difficult for a supporters’ group to speak for the whole fan base, but on this issue, we’re pretty convinced that we can confidently say we speak for every fan connected to Sheffield United Football Club when we say that we were aghast at the sad news of the untimely passing of former club captain and manager, Gary Speed.
“The reaction from all football fans has been the same – shock and sadness and this ability to unite all football fans of differing allegiances shows the regard that this consummate professional was held in.”
Gary Speed made his debut for United on New Year’s Day 2008 in a 0-0 draw against Wolves. He retired as a player in the summer of 2009 but continued career in the game by taking up a coaching role at Sheffield United.
Three games into the 2010-11 season, he replaced Kevin Blackwell as manager before moving to manage the Wales national team in December 2010.
United director Scott McCabe described the death as “devastating news”, while former playing colleague, now player coach, Chris Morgan said: “I just cannot believe that Gary has died. He was extremely popular at Bramall Lane both as a player and in a managerial capacity with all the lads. His death is a very sad loss.”
Supporters left a steady stream of tributes at the ground. Blade Kevan Smith said: “I think it unites football fans. There’s no Wednesday or United on days like this. It’s just unbelievable.”
Dean Lee, who laid a bouquet with partner Chloe Bentley and daughter Charlie Lee, aged two, said: “I was gutted; I shed a few tears about it. It’s such a loss.
“I saw him on the pitch as a Blade but never got to meet him, I wish I had. It’s sad that he appears to have taken his own life, it’s the thing I can’t get my head around.”
The Wales national flag fluttered from Autocraft Services Ltd opposite the ground as a mark of respect.
Technician and United supporter Chris McDougall said: “Gary was a footballing legend at all the clubs he’s been at. It’s such a shame how it happened.”
An inquest in Warrington heard on Tuesday that the father-of-two was found hanged at his home in Cheshire by his wife, Louise, just before 7am on Sunday.
The hearing was adjourned until January 30.
lTributes, page 50.