The 27th of November is a day that will always be remembered in footballing folklore as in 2011 we bid farewell to a true legend of the game, Gary Speed.
Eight years on from his tragic death, the Welsh midfielder remains a club hero at each of the five teams he played and eventually managed.
During Bolton’s halcyon days of the mid-2000s, the addition of Gary Speed cemented Wanderers as a regular contender for the European places in the upper echelons of the Premier League and hearing about his tragic death in November 2011 was heartbreaking for many.
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Gary Speed’s illustrious career
Despite being born in the Welsh town of Mancot in September 1969, Speed began his footballing career in the youth teams of Leeds United before eventually making the step up to the first team in 1988 at just 19-years-of-age.
In the eight years that followed, Gary Speed would go onto play over 300 matches for Leeds in all competitions.
In 1996, Speed swapped Yorkshire for the blue half of Merseyside when he joined Everton. His stay at Goodison didn’t last long with the midfielder departing after just 18 months following a fall-out with the Everton manager at the time. Despite his brief stay, Speed is still remembered fondly by fans.
In January 1998, Speed was on the move to his third club in the form of Newcastle United, who snapped the midfielder up for around £5.5 million. Speed was a key figure in the Newcastle team at the turn of the millennium and featured in 285 matches for the Magpies including during the Toon’s Champions League campaign in 2002/03.
In July 2004, at the age of 34 and just weeks away from his 35th birthday, Gary Speed signed for Big Sam’s Bolton for a reported £750,000 and instantly became a key part in Wanderers’ side, playing in all 38 of Bolton’s Premier League matches in 2004/05 and in 2006/07. In all, Gary Speed played in 139 matches for Bolton, scoring 14 goals in the process.
Sheffield United came calling for Gary Speed in January 2008 and secured a loan deal for the midfielder which would become permanent in the summer. Speed played just 40 times for the Blades before calling time on his career and taking over as Sheffield United’s manager until the Welsh national team job became available.
Gary Speed at Bolton
Gary Speed was brought in by Sam Allerdyce to add an extra layer of experience to his side and despite his age proved to be a real asset to Bolton during his three and a half seasons with Wanderers.
In December 2006, Gary Speed became the first player to make 500 appearances in the Premier League when he lined up against West Ham.
Big Sam certainly got his money’s worth out of Gary Speed as the Welshman played a total of 139 matches for Wanderers and even captained the side on occasion.
Of Gary Speed’s 14 goals for Bolton, seven of them were penalties and it’s worth noting that he never missed a spot-kick for the Trotters. Speed’s most prolific season came in 2006/07 when the midfielder netted eight times during the campaign with five of those goals coming from the penalty spot.
By the time that Gary Speed left Bolton in January 2008, he had become a real fan-favourite and was praised for his superb technical ability and his dogged and resolute determination. They don’t make ’em like Gary Speed any more.