TEN years ago today, the football world was rocked by the sudden and tragic death of Wales and Premier League star Gary Speed.
Few players have made such an impression on professional football as Mr Speed. His career took him to some of England’s biggest clubs including Everton, Bolton, Leeds and Newcastle.
Playing a whopping 535 times in the Premier League, Mr Speed is currently ranked sixth on the all-time list of appearances in the English top-flight.
But it was on the international stage for Wales where Mr Speed’s influence, first as a player – then as a manager, is still being felt a decade on from that terrible day.
Widely credited as the man who changed the fortunes of the Welsh football team, Mr Speed stepped up to manage his country in late 2010 – with Wales ranked a dismal 116th in the world rankings. In his short tenure, Wales had jumped up to 48th place by the end of 2011.
Since then, Wales went on to achieve tremendous success at Euro 2016 by reaching the semi-finals of the tournament.
They’re now firmly in the running to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958.
Wales midfielder Joe Allen said: “A lot of the lads still talk about Gary, the influence he had on us as young players when he was manager.
“He revamped a lot of things, not just on the pitch but off it as well, and we’ve reaped the rewards of that.
“That’s one of the big reasons why Welsh football has been in such a healthy position over the last decade.”
The Argus looks back at some of the football legend’s most memorable achievements for Wales.
A dedicated servant of Welsh football
Mr Speed was an almost constant presence on the Wales team sheet throughout the 90s and early 2000s, earning an impressive 85 caps for his country – the second highest capped player at the time of his retirement in 2004, behind Neville Southall.
He made 44 of those appearances as captain with his service and dedication making him a contender for Wales manager in the future.
That famous win in 2002
Mr Speed captained Wales to one of their most memorable footballing triumphs when the Dragons clinched a 2-1 victory over international juggernauts Italy at the Millennium Stadium in 2002.
It was one of Mr Speed’s finest days in a red jersey and cemented his place in Welsh football history as one of its finest leaders.
First game in charge of Wales
It wasn’t the dream start to Mr Speed’s tenure many had hoped for in February 2011. A disappointing 3-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland on a dreary February evening in Dublin.
But that loss turned out to be one of only five defeats Wales would suffer under Mr Speed’s stewardship. The boss would lead them on to five wins in the ten matches he took charge of.
Making Aaron Ramsey captain
Few can ignore the belief that Mr Speed had in Wales’s fresh-faced youngsters like Gareth Bale and Gwent’s own Aaron Ramsey.
His vision of creating a new generation of leaders was boldly placed on the shoulders of Mr Ramsey when he made the 20-year-old captain for Wales’s Euro 2012 qualifying match against England.
Little more needs to be said about whether the decision was the right one…
His final game in charge
Mr Speed’s last game in charge of Wales was a 4-0 thrashing of Norway at the Cardiff City Stadium on November 12, 2011.
Wales centurion Gareth Bale netted a superb goal that evening with Mr Speed’s former teammate Craig Bellamy also scoring.
It was a display that showed just how much progress Wales had made under Gary Speed that’s now a fitting tribute to his legacy.
For all his accolades in football, it was his humble nature off the field that made such a lasting impression on those that knew him.