Posted: Mon 6th Jun 2022

“He started this, he started the culture,” Rob Page dedicates World Cup play off win to Gary Speed

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jun 6th, 2022

Wales will play at the World Cup for the first time since 1958, after a heroic 1-0 victory over Ukraine amid stunning scenes at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday evening. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Gareth Bale’s deflected free-kick was the difference between the two teams in a passion filled World Cup play-off match. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Wales caretaker manager Robert Page dedicated his side’s victory to Mancot born Gary Speed. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Page is the third man to coach Wales since Gary Speed’s untimely death in 2011 at the age of just 41. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

During the post match press conference on Sunday, Page said: “Gary Speed started this 12,13 years ago, I want to dedicate this [win] to Gary as well.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“He started the culture 12 years ago and there was a difference, there was a change in the environment, it completely changed.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I’ve inherited that, where we’re just confident going into games we don’t hope to qualify for the Euro’s or the World Cup, we believe we can do it.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“So there’s been a massive change in the mentality as well.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

John Hartson, former Wales team-mate of Gary said: “He started this revolution of.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“He changed a lot of things when he came in, he got the players playing in a certain way, he got them training in a certain way and brought in advanced coaching and sports science.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Gary used what he could to enhance the team and better the conditions and everything else that we trained in.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Gary deserves huge credit, I’m sure he’s up there looking down and very proud of the players.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It’s been a decade since Gary’s tragic death. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

As a youngster he played for Aston Park Rangers, Flintshire schoolboys and attended Hawarden High School. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Speed wasn’t just a Wales football legend, but a hero at Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United, and he was, without doubt, one of the true great players of his era. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

A talented midfielder who played almost 950 games for club and country, Speed represented Wales with an unwavering passion and pride during his 85 appearances with the dragon on his chest. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Like many great Wales players of his era, Speed never made it to the finals of a major tournament. But he did much more. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

His legacy will forever live in the achievement of reaching consecutive EURO finals in 2016 and 2020 and now qualification for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Speed didn’t live to see Wales compete on the biggest stage, but the professional culture and environment that he developed during his time as manager has shaped the foundations for those who succeeded him. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

While his predecessor John Toshack spent his time at the helm of the national team ensuring that the young players emerging through the pathway system would gain international experience above their years with the help of Brian Flynn, it was Speed who changed the dynamic of the international environment. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Demanding the same high standards he set during his playing career, Speed’s work on the field was complimented by the investment he drove forward off it. Without his influence, Wales would not have established the professionalism required to achieve the success that followed. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Despite a slow start, Speed’s time as manager ended with four wins from his final five games, and it was poignant that his last match would provide the most complete performance of his time in charge. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

A convincing 4-1 win over Norway at the Cardiff City Stadium in November 2011 offered a clear indication that Wales were making significant progress ahead of the next World Cup qualifying campaign. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The draw had been made and Speed was excited for the competitive challenge ahead, but a fortnight after the Norway victory, the result became an irrelevance as his untimely death was announced. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

A relevant figure to emerging talents like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, Speed was an inspiration to the group of players he inherited from Toshack, and he restored a pride in representing Wales that had been missing for too long. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He ensured that the platform provided for the players matched the professional standards that they had come to expect from their clubs, and there was an immediate excitement and anticipation about what the nation could finally achieve under his guidance after so many years of heartbreak. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

While his work with Cymru at the time of his death was distorted through emotion, it is clear now that the foundations he put in place were solid and effective enough for his successors to thrive upon. Now a decade on, his legacy continues to spread. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

His vision created a set of ‘Welsh Way’ principles that are now fully integrated into the FAW National Syllabus and run throughout the domestic game and Cymru men’s and women’s national teams. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

They undoubtedly contributed to Wales success at Euro 2016, 2020 and World Cup qualification and will continue to do so for generations to come. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Deeside’s Gary Speed will be forever missed, but he will also be forever loved and forever celebrated by those who continue to share his Wales passion. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​


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