November 27 will forever be the date Wales woke up to the tragic news that Gary Speed, coach of the national football team, married to his childhood sweetheart and father to two teenage boys, had been found dead at his home.

This year marks 10 years since he died – an occasion that will no doubt be marked across the country but one which his widow and adult kids want to try and forget.

As each November comes round, marking yet another year with Gary gone, wife Louise tries to "escape" to New York with sons Ed and Tommy. It is not a day they can celebrate. That's on Gary's birthday which is in September, Louise said. He will be forever 42.

She found Gary in the garage of their home in Cheshire having hanged himself just hours after he had appeared on national television, seemingly in good spirits. On the instructions of the emergency services she walked in and cut him down.

No-one can put their finger on why – least of all Gary's parents Carol and Roger Speed. A decade on Roger has dementia and Carol is barely sleeping in the run-up to the day. She can’t wait for the week in the lead-up to be over.

"It keeps coming back," she said. "It's always at the front of my mind. It's just horrible. We just miss him." They don’t have any plans to mark the date but will raise a glass to their son's memory – a sign that they are "extremely proud" of a man who is still revered and talked about in Welsh football.

"The fact that people are still talking about him 10 years on, we are very proud of that," said Carol. "He was a good lad."

She added: "One day he was there and the next he was gone and I've got to live with that. It’s such a shame and such a waste of his life."

Roger and Carol Speed in 2012

Such was his status his character and presence still looms large over Welsh football. And yet you don't have to be a football fan for Gary's death to resonate. Because above all he was a husband, a father, and a son too – a genuine, modest man who seemed to have it all. He was someone who was so loved and respected by all who knew him.

His death showed that it could happen to anyone. A coroner gave a narrative conclusion at the inquest into his death saying that while Gary had hanged himself he couldn't be certain it was intentional.

"I only wish I knew what happened that night,” Carol added. "I’ve never been told what happened. As far as we were concerned everything was fine – he was always smiling and everything was okay."

Perhaps Neville Southall, who played for Wales alongside Gary and was also a Premier League teammate for Everton, says it best of all by summing up the devastation that comes with every suicide. "I think it’s tragic when anyone does it," he said ahead of the 10-year marker. "The thing is we will never know why. There’s no rhyme or reason why people do it.

"It’s fantastic to have Gary remembered every year but it must hurt his family every year too. The recognition about what happened to Gary is a double-edged sword for the family.

"I still think he’s about sometimes. I expect to see him about on the telly. Those 10 years have gone incredibly quickly for me but has it for his family?"

Perhaps the most striking thing about this 10-year anniversary is how the sense of profound loss has barely diminished. If anything it seems to have grown stronger with each passing year – partly because Wales have gone on to achieve so much in international football.

Louise Speed

That heartbreaking loss was described by Louise in her 2018 book, Gary Speed Unspoken, in which she said she wished there was an operation "which could take your memory out and obliterate it from my mind".

She wrote: "It’s something I will find hard to forgive Gary for. We were the ones who had to pick up the pieces and what he’d done was grotesque. Everyone asks me why he did it but I have no answers. And that’s why I will never have any closure."

The sentiment was echoed by Carol in 2018 when she told The Mirror: "If you don’t know the reason it happened you are never at peace. We didn’t know there was anything wrong with Gary. You never recover. Never. It’s the biggest shock anyone could ever experience."

But nothing was more powerful than the image of two young lads stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their father's former teammates and players at a Gary Speed memorial match against Costa Rica a year later. Ed and Tommy Speed, who both went to the US to study at university, were 14 and 13 at the time of their dad's death.

Edward and Thomas Speed alongside Craig Bellamy during the national anthem at the memorial match between Wales and Costa Rica
Edward and Thomas Speed alongside Craig Bellamy during the national anthem at the memorial match between Wales and Costa Rica

In their young faces was a calm and steely focus for which their dad was so well known. Neither betrayed the horrors of what they'd been through. It wouldn't be until 2020 they revealed exactly what happened that night. Talking to BBC presenter Dan Walker for his book, Remarkable People, Ed said: "I remember it vividly. Mum and Dad went out for the night and me and Tommy had a few friends over. As they left Dad reminded us to make sure we were in bed by midnight and that was it.

"The next morning I was woken up by Mum screaming for me or just screaming – I can’t quite remember. She was outside and she had seen dad through the window of the garage.

"I ran downstairs and she was struggling to breathe and talk. She told me not to look in the garage but... It still haunts me what I saw, Dad suffering like that."

Mickey Thomas, who was well-established at Leeds when Gary arrived as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, remembered the moment the two boys arrived at a game at Old Trafford after their dad had died. "What do you say to something like that?" he said. "It’s unreal what happened. No-one can make it out."

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The football world felt for the family, united in grief and desperate to help. Rob Earnshaw, who played for Wales under Gary, still speaks to them – even today. He said: "I spoke to one of his sons on the phone about things he wanted help with. I feel for his family a hell of a lot. I remember them as youngsters. They would come into the dressing room after his passing. Now they’re all grown up you just feel their dad’s presence in them – that influence and those characteristics."

The fact that Gary had been suffering at all came "out of the blue" for his family and friends as well as his teammates and the players he managed. The shock of his death was perhaps even more profound because in the spring of 2011 Gary had ignited a fire within the Welsh national team hitherto unseen.

Just two weeks before his death he'd overseen an emphatic 4-1 win over Norway in Cardiff. It was a friendly but it represented visible progression of his largely youthful side. Having replaced John Toshack as Wales manager in December 2010 with just four months managerial experience under his belt there was a tangible sense that Gary was on the cusp of being one of the greatest managers Wales had ever seen.

Read more:The story of Gary Speed's final game on a night that gave Wales new hope just 15 days before tragedy

John Hartson, who played alongside Gary for Wales, said: "Gary was doing such a great job with the national team. It looked like he was going to become a fantastic manager. It’s a crying shame because there are so many people who would have been there for Gary if only he’d spoken to one of us or just spoken out."

Talk to anyone involved in the Wales national team at the time and they will name Gary Speed as the man who started the process that took Wales all the way to the second round of Euro 2020, where they eventually lost out to Denmark. It was their second consecutive Euros and their second consecutive advance to the knockout stages.

Beginning the process of revolutionising the Welsh national setup in early 2011 Gary called his squad together and told them the national side would be run differently under his watch. Almost overnight Wales embraced the latest developments in sports science and physical training, completely modernising their approach on and off the field. Earnshaw considers himself lucky to have called Gary both a teammate and a coach. "I got to see those two sides and got to know him as a person too," he said.

As Wales' coach ahead of a Euro 2012 qualifier against England in March 2011
As Wales' coach ahead of a Euro 2012 qualifier against England in March 2011

"For me seeing that journey but also his qualities as a coach was just amazing. It made a huge impact because he was so passionate but also a guy who understood how to put in excellence and that went into his coaching.

"I remember his first team meeting as a manager. We were sat there – a handful of us who’d played with him and now seeing him as a manager. That first meeting was to address the team was about what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. Standards had to be way higher than what they had been before him, he told us.

"We were going to target the 2014 World Cup – he said that’s what we’re going to do. And to get there we needed to be the best prepared team and that’s what he was going to do. Everything was about how we can be better and get to that tournament. All of the things over the last 10 years are because of Gary Speed."

To understand where that passion, dedication, and professionalism came from you only have to look at the reputation Gary had forged as a player for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, and Bolton. He signed for second-division Leeds as a 14-year-old boy and he was given his debut four years later.

An emerging talent: a beaming Gary Speed pictured in May 1991 ahead of an international clash between Wales and Iceland
An emerging talent: a beaming Gary Speed pictured in May 1991 ahead of an international clash between Wales and Iceland

Thomas can remember the young Gary arriving at Leeds, a strikingly "handsome man" who seemed to immediately "have everything". He said: "He had something special – he was an up-and-coming, very promising youngster. He got in the senior team when I was there. Once he established himself he never went back and the Premier League picked him up."

He was the ultimate professional, a manager’s dream, with his undoubted talent never outshining his humility and the inherent belief that he was nothing special and he would have to work hard to get better at everything.

Southall, often described as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, admired the way Gary played. "Gary could play any position on any team," he recalled. "I thought he was a complete player. Whether he was up front or on the wing he had a fantastic natural talent. He reminded me of some of the greatest Dutch players. I don’t think he has ever been recognised just how great he was. He was a fantastic asset."

Gary Speed challenges Paul Scholes in the 1999 FA Cup Final as the former's international teammate Ryan Giggs looks on
Gary Speed challenges Paul Scholes in the 1999 FA Cup Final as the former's international teammate Ryan Giggs looks on

A rising star, Gary's humility tempered his natural charisma. He remained the same person who knew he had to train hard every day, had to listen to every manager, and had to look after his body. After Leeds he moved to Everton in 1996, finishing his debut season as their joint-top scorer and player of the year. In 1998 he transferred to Newcastle for £5.5m. Aged 34 he had three seasons with Bolton Wanderers and he saw out his playing career at Sheffield United before retiring in 2008.

"The one thing he did was work his socks off every single day," Southall added, who made 578 appearances for Everton during his 17 years with the club . "He pushed himself every single day. I remember when he was at Everton after a game he was going onto the pitch for a cool down. Everyone was thinking: 'What the hell is he doing?' because nobody ever did that in those days. He was doing it long before everyone else.

"Everything he did was absolutely right and that’s why he made such a great captain. He left Everton which was a brave decision. Our standards didn’t match his standards. I thought: 'Fair play – he's recognised we didn’t match his ambitions'."

Southall (second from right) and Speed (second from left) line up alongside one another during the anthems as Wales prepared to take on the Netherlands in Eindhoven in November 1996
Southall (second from right) and Speed (second from left) line up alongside one another during the anthems as Wales prepared to take on the Netherlands in Eindhoven in November 1996

Gary's high level of standards is a recurring sentiment and is the quality that his players and teammates seem to remember the most. As a manager the man who had made 85 appearances for his country wanted each of his players to feel the same passion for international football that ran through him.

Earnshaw recalled one of their first team chats in the dressing room as Wales began their campaign to target 2014. Gary told them he could remember the bleak disappointment of losing out to Russia in a qualifier for the 2004 World Cup. In that match Gary had captained Wales and played alongside John Hartson, Ryan Giggs, and Rob Earnshaw in a spirited attempt to end Wales' 45-year wait to reach another major tournament.

Gary Speed in action during the first leg of the Euro 2004 Championship playoff match between Russia and Wales in Moscow
Gary Speed in action during the first leg of the Euro 2004 Championship playoff match between Russia and Wales in Moscow

"He was my teammate in the dressing room – I was there," said Earnshaw about that 2004 loss. "One of the things Gary pointed out in 2011 was that he remembered that qualifier. We didn’t get there because we weren’t good enough, he said. That wasn’t pointing at someone else – that was pointing to himself as well. He was holding himself accountable for it."

That responsibility had a profound impact on the players who now looked up to him as their manager. Earnshaw added: "He was easy to believe because you somehow knew that what he was saying was correct. He always understood why we were doing things. He was very focused and very passionate and very controlled and very professional.

"He treated everyone with respect. You wanted to do what he wanted because we believed in what he was trying to do. He also explained the reasons why he was doing the things he was doing. He had a high level of standards and he gave that aura of having a direction.

"One of the things I loved about him was that he was respectfully direct. He could tell you when something wasn’t good enough but respectfully so."

Rob Earnshaw in action for Wales in an October 2004 World Cup qualifier against Poland in Cardiff. The home side, captained by Gary Speed, were beaten 3-2 having gone ahead through Earnshaw's 56th-minute strike
Rob Earnshaw in action for Wales in an October 2004 World Cup qualifier against Poland in Cardiff. The home side, captained by Gary Speed, were beaten 3-2 having gone ahead through Earnshaw's 56th-minute strike

The hope among the players was intoxicating. Gary had planted the seeds of a professional, cohesive unit and reinvigorated the increasingly disillusioned supporters. They could see Gary had a long-term plan and that he was building something. In 2011 Wales won the most points of any nation in the Fifa world rankings, climbing into the top 50 for the first time since 2003.

His successor, Chris Coleman, implemented his own tactical changes but Gary had introduced something crucial at international level: cohesion. This was a group of players growing increasingly assured of their own, and each others’, abilities and how best to work together to utilise them. That last match against Norway was the moment everything appeared to fall into place.

This was Wales at their fluid best under Speed against a side 24th in the world rankings. Even the manager himself admitted the football Wales displayed was "sensational". Ultimately the Norway game made the tragedy hit home harder as such encouragement and excitement quickly turned into crushing grief.

Roger Speed and grandsons Ed and Tommy Speed pictured during a minute's applause for Gary, their son and father respectively, at the Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa on December 10, 2011
Roger Speed and grandsons Ed and Tommy Speed pictured during a minute's applause for Gary, their son and father respectively, at the Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa on December 10, 2011

Coleman, Gary's successor, tried to tap into the feelings of the nation. "We’re still all shocked by what happened and we’re still grieving," he said as he took the reins. "And the only way we can put smiles on fans’ faces again is to continue to win matches but I don’t think we’ll ever get over the loss of Gary. On one hand it is the proudest moment of my career but on the other hand, with the circumstances, I was very close friends with Gary for 30 years."

A decade later Wales is still "in mourning", said Hartson. "No-one saw this coming when he took his own life," he said about his Welsh teammate. "Nobody can put their finger on it and work out the reason why. He must’ve been in a very dark place to do what he did. It’s very sad because he was such a wonderful person both inside and outside.

"He was a proper man, a real man, and he was a fantastic footballer. He had a wonderful family with Louise, his two boys, and his mum and dad. He was a humble guy – he loved a game of golf or a pint at the bar. He was just a normal man and you could talk about anything with him.

"He was there for everybody from the younger to the senior players. That’s the upsetting thing – he was loved by everybody at Leeds, Newcastle, Wales. It’s a crying shame he never shared what was going on in his mind. So many people would have held their hand out and gone over and above to help him."

Hartson played in the Wales side captained by Speed that narrowly missed out on a place at Euro 2004
Hartson played in the Wales side captained by Speed that narrowly missed out on a place at Euro 2004

Hartson said the death of his older sister Hayley last year brought the pain of loss into sharp relief. "My family have been going through a difficult time; I’ve lost a sister, my parents have lost a child," he explained. "It’s very difficult to understand and comprehend but I can empathise. I still want to phone my sister – her number is still saved in my phone."

He added: "He had everything going for him with his boys. It’s a desperate shame – you just hope they’re all coping."

Nearly everyone expects Gary to pop up on the telly when they switch on the football. Occasionally he does, which is why Carol admitted she can't watch the football anymore: "It’s too much for me if I watch it," she said, speaking in 2018. "I can still see him there playing. So I can’t do it, no. I can’t watch it."

Earnshaw said his initial shock of hearing about Gary had barely diminished. "It’s 10 years and it’s really hard to believe right now that he’s gone," he said. "I remember hearing the news he had passed and I just sat down in disbelief. 'How is this possible?' I thought. 'This figure is so huge and he’s such a great guy.'

"He was one of those guys who you would not have a clue that something was wrong. You knew when he was passionate and he had a priority to go and get things done. It was harder to see his personal side because he was very controlled. The guy was strong – strong in any situation. That’s what we thought and that’s why it was so shocking for us – especially in the manner and the way he died. He’s the last person you would think in that situation because he was a body of strength – a guy who could just handle anything.

"It’s so hard thinking that he’s not around. His figure was so powerful it’s hard to believe he’s not here. I see a picture and I think we’re going to see him again – he had that much of an impact. The only beautiful thing is the impact to feel that way is because of how much of a great guy he was."

Gary was on the cusp of being one of the greatest managers Wales had ever seen
Gary was on the cusp of being one of the greatest managers Wales had ever seen

Thomas was equally shocked to hear the news. He recalled: "Robbie Savage told me at 1am in the morning. I told him to get lost and put down the phone. I couldn’t believe it.

"We’d had a good chat a few weeks before. Nothing seemed different. But you don’t know what’s going on in peoples’ minds. It’s still a shock now because I don’t know why he did it."

Nathan Blake played most of his Wales international career with Gary and both men retired at around the same time. He thought the news about Gary was a mistake. "It just came out of the blue," Blake said. "I’d seen him a few weeks before at the Welsh FA – we had a half-hour chat in his office. I hadn’t seen him for two years before that. And then you see that news a few weeks later and he was gone."

Disbelief is a common theme. "It was shocking for me," Southall remembered. "When I heard I was on the M4. It’s so hard to believe he’s not here. I see him on the TV sometimes – he’s so alive, so happy, so good at what he did."

Nathan Blake and Gary Speed walk past St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square the day before Wales' pivotal Euro 2004 play-off first leg
Nathan Blake and Gary Speed walk past St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square the day before Wales' pivotal Euro 2004 play-off first leg

The question of 'why?' goes unanswered – something which gives enormous pain to his family and makes his friends stop and wonder. In Gary Speed Unspoken – Louise revealed she'd stumbled on a letter Gary had sent to her mother’s home when he was a 17-year-old at Leeds United. It confirmed her deepest suspicions – Gary had been ill for a very long time.

Addressed to Louise, he wrote: "I don't really know what to say. I have been thinking about finishing at Leeds. I've also been thinking of other things which I won't say. I'm so depressed. I'm just going to go to sleep now and I hope I never wake up. I love you so much." Read the full letter here.

But he'd never let on those thoughts still haunted him. On the outside it may have looked like everything came easily – there was always a smile, always a playful glint in the eye, always an effortless cool to what he did. And yet underneath clearly nothing came easily.

The day before he died Gary had appeared on Football Focus, before watching Manchester United at Old Trafford and then returning to the family's Cheshire mansion. BBC Breakfast host Walker was one of the last people to see Gary alive. Walker himself admitted he still wracked his brain wondering if he missed clues Gary's mindset in that TV appearance the day before. Speaking on the Headliners podcast he said: "Could I have said something to him that day? Now, was I a good enough friend to him, could I have spotted something?

"And I've been through every conversation – virtually every word, I can remember verbatim what we spoke about on that Saturday. The final thing he said to me was he was talking in detail about all the games that Wales had coming up and what tactics he was going to play in those tournament qualifiers.

"And he spoke about his children and he asked me about my children, which is what he always did – he always asked people about what was going on in your life. He was interested in other people."

The teams line up for the national anthems during the Gary Speed memorial match between Wales and Costa Rica at the Cardiff City Stadium on February 29, 2012
The teams line up for the national anthems during the Gary Speed memorial match between Wales and Costa Rica at the Cardiff City Stadium on February 29, 2012

Thomas, who has had his own personal demons to overcome, is more philosophical. "You don’t know what’s going on in peoples’ minds," he said. "It’s still a shock now because I don’t know why he did it. People see you differently as a footballer – they don’t see that you have your own problems.

"It changes who you are. It’s the limelight. You can’t live a normal life as a footballer – there’s a pressure to entertain and to perform. I was brought up on a council estate in Wrexham wanting to be a footballer. It changes you and makes you different. And there’s not much you can do about it.

"I couldn't see that in Gary. Whatever triggered it we will never know the real truth. We can speculate but it will never get the real reason now. People want to know because he’s somebody – a hero, a star. People don’t know him but they feel like they do. He was the perfect person with the perfect life with money, a house. But it goes to show it could happen to anyone."

Blake doesn't want to know the reasons why. "People tried to find out what happened but I don’t want to know – it’s none of my business," he said. "I just feel for his mum and dad, his kids, and his wife. What I take from it is that I’ve suffered quite a lot of death in my family and you’ve got to make the most of your life and you’ve got to look out for people.

"People find it difficult to talk – it’s an age-old problem with men. But if you’ve got family and kids yourself you can see the long-term devastation that it's had on people. He’s really missed among a lot of people."

Gary Speed is remembered during a minute's silence ahead of the Test match between Wales and Australia at what was then known as the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on December 3, 2011
Gary Speed is remembered during a minute's silence ahead of the Test match between Wales and Australia at what was then known as the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on December 3, 2011

This Saturday then marks two things: an anniversary of the death of a great Welsh sporting icon but also a sombre reminder to talk. The fact that Gary didn't talk brings Carol the greatest sorrow. "Ten years ago there was a bit of a stigma about talking about things," she said. "Anyone feeling like that should talk to someone. They don’t have to do it on their own."

For Southall, who's become a prolific mental health advocate since retiring from football, it is the strongest message that comes out of Gary's death. "The first thing, no matter how great a person Gary was, [is that] nothing seems to have been done by anyone to stop anyone doing it again," he said. "The one thing about suicide is no-one wants to talk about it. The greatest gift that any one of us is to have a cup of tea with someone and asking if they are okay. It's a superpower that by asking that question you could save someone's life. You might never know that you did but what better thing is there in life than that?

"People need to realise what a gift they have to ask if someone is okay and then follow it up."

Neville Southall (centre of middle row) was an experienced figurehead in the Wales side which Gary Speed (furthest left on the back row) joined. They are pictured here in a team photo at Cardiff Arms Park in September 1993
Neville Southall (centre of middle row) was an experienced figurehead in the Wales side which Gary Speed (furthest left on the back row) joined. They are pictured here in a team photo at Cardiff Arms Park in September 1993

There's no doubt Gary's gift was to capture the imagination of a nation and it was a bittersweet moment when Wales not only qualified for Euro 2016 but reached the semi-finals of the tournament. Amid the celebrations during the historic quarter-final game against Belgium there was an underlying sense that Gary Speed should have been there to witness it.

He was the creator – the man with the vision who'd believed that this extraordinary moment in Welsh footballing history was possible. To think that he would never know how far Chris Coleman had taken his group of players made it all the more poignant.

Ahead of the semi-final against Portugal Coleman paid tribute to his predecessor. "If you think about Gary Speed, he had 10 games as a manager," he said. "He won five and showed great promise as a young manager. He’s not just a Welsh but a sporting icon. He could be sitting here where I am enjoying what we’re enjoying. Unfortunately that was taken away. We always remember Speeds."

Ten years on Gary's presence in Welsh football is no less diminished and he will be in many hearts this weekend.

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