NIALL Quinn joined some of the biggest names in British football in paying tribute to Gary Speed, following the Wales’ manager’s death at the age of 42.
The former Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder was found dead yesterday morning at his home on the outskirts of Chester.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. Sources confirmed Speed was found hanged.
Quinn said: “This sad, sad news has devastated everyone at Sunderland.
“His career speaks for itself but the esteem in which he was held universally was immense and absolutely unique.
“His enthusiasm, his spirit of fair play and the encouraging leader he became towards the end of his playing career seemed to be paving the way to a fantastic career in management.
“All of Sunderland is thinking of Gary’s family right now and our thoughts and prayers go out to them. God bless to one of football’s good guys.”
Former Sunderland boss Howard Wilkinson – Speed’s manager when he guided Leeds to the 1992 First Division title – said the Welshman was a “star in the true sense”.
“The players I worked with represented all colours of the rainbow in terms of character, but in Gary’s case he was a star in the true sense,” Wilkinson said.
“I’ve known Gary since 1988 when I joined Leeds and I’ve rarely come across a better balanced, lovely, genuine person. He was a terrific player – not as gifted as some but he made the most of everything he had.”
Former Wales team-mate Ryan Giggs said: “I am totally devastated. Gary Speed was one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend. Words cannot begin to describe how sad I feel at hearing this awful news.”
Alan Shearer, a team-mate at Newcastle for six years, said: “Gary was a magnificent person, bright, fun and a wonderful family man – he lit up every room he walked into. I am proud to have been his friend and will miss him dreadfully.”
Born in Mancot in 1969, Speed turned out for Flintshire Schoolboys while attending Hawarden High School before making Yorkshire his home when Leeds came calling to herald the start of an illustrious career, which saw him become Wales’ most-capped outfield player with 85 appearances to his name.
Speed, who was awarded an MBE last year for services to football, had revitalised the fortunes of the national side since taking charge in December of 2010 and had recently overseen a run of four wins in five games, a streak that had taken them from a record low of 117th in the Fifa world rankings to as high as 45th.