Gary Speed’s professional football career began in 1988 when he signed for Leeds United. He was a key part of the Leeds team that won the First Division Title in the 1991-92 seasnon, forming part of a robust midfield with Gary McAllister, David Batty and Gordon Strachan. He played for Leeds for eight years before transferring to Everton in 1996, the club he supported as a boy.
When Howard Kendall was appointed Everton manager at the start of the 1997-98 season, he named Speed as his captain. However, the Welshman left Evrton for Newcastle in February 1998 after rumours of a rift between himself and the manager surfaced.
At Newcastle, Speed was part of a team that struggled under Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit before being rejuvenated by Sir Bobby Robson. Highlights of his career on Tyneside included playing in two back-to-back FA Cup Finals, losing to Arsenal in 1998 and Manchester United in 1999, and playing in the UEFA Champions League in the 2002-03 season.
In summer 2004, Speed moved to Bolton Wanderers. While playing for Bolton, he became the first player to reach the milestone of 500 Premier League appearances. When Sam Allardyce left Bolton, Speed briefly took on a coaching role for the club. He soon chose to step down from this role to concentrate on playing. Speed’s Premier League career came to an end in January 2008, when he joined Sheffield United on loan, a move which later became permanent. At the time of the transfer, Speed held the record for the most Premier League appearances at 535, a record that was later beaten by David James and Ryan Giggs.
As a Welsh international player, Speed picked up his first cap in 1990, playing against Costa Rica. He went on to become the most capped outfield player with 85 appearances, a record only eclipsed by goalkeeper Neville Southall.
Speed played for The Blades until 2010, when he chose to retire at the age of 40 after struggling to overcome a back injury. He stayed at the club as a coach and was later appointed manager. He only stayed in the position for six months, leaving to take up the position of Wales manager.
As the national manager, Speed was responsible for a big change in Wales’ fortunes on the pitch. In August 2011, the side dropped to their lowest ever FIFA ranking of 117th. This changed over the next few months when the team won four of their next five games, seeing them climb to 45th in the rankings.
In addition to his achievements on the pitch, Gary Speed was also awarded an MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for services to football. Speed was inducted into the SportsMission Hall Of Fame on December 3rd, 2011.