Shay Given has recalled the heartbreaking day he was told close pal Gary Speed had died just hours before he was due to play for Aston Villa.
Shay Given said “I was at Aston Villa, I remember we were playing Swansea away and it was Alan Shearer who called me, we were just about to go down for a team meeting at the hotel to go and play Swansea and he obviously made the phone call, he phoned me. Why was he ringing me on match day, he wouldn’t do that, you wouldn’t normally ring a player on a match day, you just wouldn’t. And obviously told me the news about Speedo, and I was like, ‘You checked? Are you sure?’ He said, ‘Yeah it’s real, it’s nonsense.’ I just couldn’t believe it because I think a couple of weeks before I met him actually in Manchester, just in one of the shops in town and I hadn’t seen him for a while. I was still keeping in touch on the phone but he was busy managing Wales and I was busy playing and we were still good friends over the phone but I’d not seen him. It was just weird a couple of weeks later he was gone. There was talk of the game getting called off because he was the Welsh manager and we were in Swansea in Wales obviously and we thought probably the right thing to do but the powers that be say, ‘nah the game goes ahead.’”
Given revealed how he broke down in the minute’s silence before the clash against the Swans, but was determined to keep a clean sheet in honour of his pal. And he paid tribute to Speed as a father and still keeps in contact with his two sons Tommy and Eddie.
Shay Given said “The minute’s silence before the game, I just broke down, I just couldn’t keep it together. It didn’t seem real really. Then I think what would Speedo have wanted, what would he have wanted me to do and he would have wanted me to play and keep a clean sheet and I did and said I’d do it for him, albeit the game shouldn’t have been played but he was a really strong-willed character and I was just a bit in shock as much as anything that has happened. Even now, still, I still can’t believe it. I still stay in touch with Tommy and Eddie, his two sons, they’re grown up now living in America, they’re great lads and he’s missing out on all that you know? Gary was a great dad and it’s just no-one really knows what’s going on in people’s lives or in people’s heads. It is good to talk and wishing now that couple of weeks before he did die that I’d asked him ‘Is everything alright, do you want to talk about anything?’ But he just seemed the normal Speedo, the way he always was. Joking, having the craic, and having a laugh. He didn’t seem as if anything was up.”
Speed took his own life back in 2011 and the football world continues to mourn the loss of an immensely popular player and manager. Given was playing for Villa at the time and was preparing for a game at Swansea when Alan Shearer rang him to inform him about his former Newcastle United teammate.
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