TRAGEDY: Gary SpeedNEWCASTLE Jets striker Michael Bridges has paid tribute to former teammate and Premier League superstar and Wales manager Gary Speed, who was found hanged at his home in Huntington, Chester, on Sunday morning at the age of 42.
A statement issued by Cheshire Police said there were ‘‘no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death’’.
Speed was universally respected and admired and his sudden passing has sent shockwaves around the football world.
Bridges played alongside Speed at English clubs Newcastle United and Bolton, where the Welshman was captain.
‘‘It is just tragic,’’ Bridges said yesterday.
‘‘We lived together at a hotel in Bolton for three months, and then were at Newcastle as well.
‘‘Gary was known as Mr Premier League.
‘‘Everyone aspired to be Alan Shearer or Gary Speed. He was a legend everywhere he went and a major influence on my career.
‘‘He was captain at Bolton and had a spell with the armband at Newcastle whenever Alan [Shearer] wasn’t playing.
‘‘He was such a lovely guy on and off the field. He was a winner and would doing anything for you.
‘‘It makes you realise that football, and sport in general, while they are great, there is so much more to life.
‘‘You don’t realise what goes on and the way people handle things different.’’
Bridges woke to the news of Speed’s death this morning.
‘‘I got a couple of text messages from old colleagues and my family,’’ he said.
‘‘To wake up to that news – it still hasn’t sunk in.
‘‘He was only on TV four days ago back in England with Alan Shearer. He was talking and appeared his normal self.
‘‘You have to think of his missus Louise and the two kids now.
‘‘It is an absolute tragedy.’’ His wife, Louise, and two children, Edward, 14, and Thomas, 13, were believed to be staying at the house on Sunday night.
Speed – capped 85 times by Wales and a winner of the English league title with Leeds United – took over coaching the national side last year and was credited with reviving their fortunes, recently leading them to three successive wins for the first time since 2008.
‘‘He had put them back on the world map and got them going again,’’ Bridges said.
‘‘He got Craig Bellamy out of international retirement and got a few more lads wanting to play again.
‘‘It shows how much respect Gary had and how hard he had worked.’’
Bellamy was too distraught to play for Liverpool in Sunday afternoon’s Premier League match against Manchester City.
Speed was awarded the Member of the British Empire medal last year in recognition of a playing career that started as a trainee at Leeds United and also encompassed spells with Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United.
‘‘Gary was a magnificent person, bright, fun and a wonderful family man,’’ Shearer said. ‘‘He lit up every room he walked into. I will miss him dreadfully.’’
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