Gary Speed, the coach of the national soccer team of Wales and a steady and skilled player in the top divisions of English soccer for more than 20 years, was found dead in his home early Sunday in the village of Huntington, England. He was 42.
His wife, Louise, found him hanged in his garage, the police said, and the death was being treated as a suicide. The BBC reported that Speed had suffered from depression.
Speed took charge of Wales last December, and although the team failed to qualify for next summer’s European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine, its world ranking jumped to No. 45 from a low of No. 117 after three consecutive victories.
In building the Wales squad, Speed brought in talented young players like Gareth Bale as it prepared for qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He was also a sought-after television pundit who had appeared on the BBC show “Football Focus” on Saturday.
He began his professional career at 19, when he made his debut for Leeds United in the old First Division of English soccer. He was part of a dynamic midfield, including Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary McAllister, that in 1991-92 took Leeds to the last championship before the formation of the Premier League. In addition to playing for Leeds, Speed spent time with Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton and Sheffield United, becoming the first to play 500 games (535 in all) in the Premier League.
Internationally, Speed made 85 appearances for Wales, second only to goalkeeper Neville Southall. He retired from international play in 2004 when Wales failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Wales, though part of Britain, maintains a national team, as do Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Wales has not qualified in a generation for top international tournaments like the World Cup and the European Championship.
Gary Speed was born on Sept. 8, 1969, in Mancot, Wales, and was the only member of his family born in Wales; his parents and sister were born in Chester, England.
In addition to his wife, his survivors include two teenage sons, Tommy and Ed.
Last week Speed travelled to Brussels to attend a fixtures meeting for Wales’s World Cup campaign.
“He completely transformed the Welsh situation from one of despair to one of hope and expectation,” his former Wales teammate Mark Bowen told The Guardian.
“The players liked him and had a real bond with him that showed in games. Everyone was really excited.”