Magical Magpie legends: Gary Speed

Posted on June 17th, 2011 | 16 Comments |

Gary Speed.
Speed: Preparation, attitude, professionalism.
This will be the first in a series of threads I am going to write, profiling some of my favourite ex Newcastle players from the last decade, starting with current Wales manager and MBE, Gary Speed.

Born in Mancot, Wales on the 8th of September 1969, Speed joined the Magpie’s in 1998 when Kenny Dalglish was at the helm. It was in a deal for a reported £5.5m from Everton.

The former Wales captain held the Premier League all time most appearances record with 535, until art and yoga enthusiast, David James, surpassed his record on 14th February 2009. He now sits in 3rd position overall after Ryan Giggs took the number one spot. During his career, he also held a record for having scored in every Premier League season (at the time), until Giggs again surpassed him on the 8th of February 2009 after Speed had been transferred from Bolton to Sheffield United on the 24th of December 2007. During his career he played for Leeds, Everton, Bolton and Sheffield United, collecting 85 caps, and scoring 7 goals for his country.

Although not extremely tall, Speed, standing at 5ft 8ins (1.73m) was excellent in the air at both sides of the pitch. He possessed an astute left foot and was known for his excellent set-pieces and effectiveness at winning back possession. In his early career he started as more of an attacking midfielder often operating on either flank at Leeds and Everton and his early days at Newcastle. Eventually he was used as a holding midfielder, sitting back and helping dictate the play, allowing his fellow midfield partners to focus on the attacking side of the game. He had extremely good vision and could pick a pass with ease, and was never afraid to get stuck in.

After joining Newcastle mid-season in 1997-1998, he featured in the F.A. Cup final defeat at the hands of Arsenal. In his first full season for us, in 1998-1999, he totalled 38 league appearances, scoring 4 goals, with United finishing the season in 13th position along with another F.A. Cup final defeat, this time inflicted by Manchester United.

The following season he amassed 36 league appearances, having also had what would be his most prolific goal scoring season in the black and white top, netting 9 league goals, with us finishing in 11th position.

The 2000-2001 season had us finish again in 11th, with Speed appearing 35 times, and scoring 5 league goals. 2001-2002 saw us qualify for the UEFA Champion’s League after securing 4th place with Gary making 29 league appearances and again, scoring 5 league goals. After the 2002-2003 season and appearing for United in the Champions League he totalled 24 league games and 2 goals, helping us finish in 3rd.

In what was his final season at Newcastle, he helped us finish in 5th position with 38 league appearances and 3 goals. In all competitions, Speed played a total of 284 times for Newcastle with 40 goals.

In the summer of 2004, Speed was sold against Sir Bobby Robson’s wishes for £750,000 to Bolton Wanderers. Four years later in 2008, he joined Sheffield United. After recovering from a serious back injury which kept him out of the game for over a year, he eventually retired from playing in 2010 at the age of 40, moving into coaching. At the start of the 2010-2011 season, Kevin Blackwell was sacked and Speed took over the managers seat at Sheffield United, and finally, on the 14th of December 2010, he was confirmed as the Wales manager.

Gary Speed was an integral part of Newcastle performing so well under Sir Bobby Robson. He was the perfect compliment in the centre of the field for players such as Dyer, Robert and Solano to attack. I remember being extremely disappointed when he was sold and couldn’t quite understand the decision when it was announced. Nicky Butt joined United the same summer as the replacement for Speed, but he did not perform well that year, and eventually Amdy Faye was brought in to solve the midfield linchpin problem, with Butt being shipped to Birmingham on loan the following season.

The summer Speed left saw Sir Bobby wrongly sacked a few months later. I remember in our first game of that season, a 2-2 draw at the Riverside Stadium, Kieron Dyer holding the captains armband which Speed used to wear if Shearer was absent, like it was a piece of litter. I wonder if Kieron would have done that if Speed was standing alongside him in the middle of the park. Actually, I doubt Dyer would have even been near the armband.

I have an extract I’d like to quote from Sir Bobby Robson’s book ‘Farewell but not goodbye’ about Speed, and what he thought of him:

“Then there was Gary Speed in the centre of midfield, as solid as ever, with his dextrous left foot. Gary and Alan Shearer are two of the most professional players I’ve ever met in my life. Give them a commendation for everything – preparation, attitude, professionalism, behaviour, setting examples, role models. You couldn’t meet two better people”.

“Gary was a fitness fanatic. Before he went out to train he would go through his own personal routine. Then he would stride out with everybody else and do the squad routine. He was hardly ever injured and was as brave as a lion. He never ducked out of a tackle and would never shirk a header, in either penalty area”.

I couldn’t agree more with that view.

What did you make of Gary Speed’s time at Newcastle?

Gary Speed loads the bullet for Alan Shearer in a 2003 Champion’s League clash with Bayer Leverkusen.

NUFCBlog Author: Jimbob Backpacker extraordinaire and current resident of sunny Sheffield. Loves Marmite, hates peanut butter. Sleeps twice a day, wrestles Polar Bears because he can and regards himself as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce. Jimbob has written 40 articles on this blog.

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16 Responses

  1. great servant to the toon – an excellent consistent performer. a bit under-appreciated in his time here, i thought.

  2. “We can’t replace Gary Speed. Where do you get an experienced player like him with a left foot and a head?”

    “Gary Speed has never played better, never looked fitter, never been older.”

    “We’ve got great speed in the team, not just Gary Speed, but great speed!”

  3. I used to dream of Shearer and Speed as our dream management team. Still time I suppose. HWTL.

  4. Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew has revealed the club are still some distance away from completing a deal for West Ham striker Demba Ba.

    The Senegal man, who failed a medical at Stoke in January, has visited Tyneside for talks and a medical.

    “There is an issue about his medical, and there has been in the past,” Pardew told BBC Newcastle.

    “We’ve got to overcome those things, but hopefully he can join the club. I think he’ll be a big success.”

    Pardew added: “He’s a player that has a natural eye for a goal, my connections at West Ham are very good and I know everything about him.

    “I’m pretty relaxed that he can be a success at Newcastle if we can get him but it’s a big if at the moment because there are some big hurdles to get across.”

  5. Milner says:
    June 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    “Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew has revealed the club are still some distance away from completing a deal for West Ham striker Demba Ba.”

    I’ve just posted a ‘blog about that Pardew interview Milner.

  6. Another cracking ‘blog and aye, Gary Speed was a great player, a great professional and a great servant of the club.

    Who’s gannin’ to be next then Jimbob?

  7. workyticket says:
    June 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    “Who’s gannin’ to be next then Jimbob?”

    Tricky one worky, im stuck between 2 at the moment and I think each may warrant 2 parts. This one was nearly over 900 words I think and I had to leave some stuff out!

  8. Aaaahhhhh….Gary Speed.

    Underrated. LEGEND !

    Side note: I ALWAYS sign him as an assistant in Football Manager games.


  9. Jimbob says:
    June 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    “Tricky one worky, im stuck between 2 at the moment and I think each may warrant 2 parts. This one was nearly over 900 words I think and I had to leave some stuff out!”

    Don’t worry about the length just for the sake of it Jimbob. If it’s interesting stuff, stick it in by all means!

    I might do one on my own personal favourite, Pedro the Great, one day as I suppose he’s too early for the timeframe you’re using, ie the last decade.

  10. Dreamer says:
    June 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    “Side note: I ALWAYS sign him as an assistant in Football Manager games”.

    Me too, and rob lee :-)

  11. Worky, you could do pedro, I am going to stick to the last decade, but was thinking earlier about some who warrant a thread…

    Because ‘they are worth it’…


  12. … Rob Lee as well.

    Dammit. going to have to play some FM11 tonight, sod the wife !!

  13. @ JimBob and Worky.

    Top Midfielders? Seeing as the midfield is the ‘in thing’ at the moment with our club.


  14. Dreamer says:
    June 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    “… Rob Lee as well.”

    Aye, I was thinking that as well Dreamer. Great passer / playmeaker in attack and good in defence too – A rare combination.

  15. @ Dreamer

    That was one of the reasons I started with Speed, along with the fact I think many people dont ever talk about him as much as certain others. Top player.