SHAY GIVEN couldn’t keep hold back the tears following the minute’s silence after the sad passing of his former team-mate Gary Speed at Aston Villa’s Premier League fixture against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
Given and 42-year-old Speed were close friends since playing alongside one another at Newcastle United and the news of the Wales manager’s suicide by hanging shocked the football world. Given opted to play just two hours after hearing the news and kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.
“They were great pals from their days at Newcastle,” Given’s father Seamus said. “They were great golfing partners and played a lot of rounds together. They were very close. He was obviously upset, so much so that he maybe shouldn’t have played. But that’s the testament to his professionalism. It is just so sad.”
Villa manager Alex McLeish paid tribute to Given, Jermaine Jenas, who also played with Speed at Newcastle, and Welsh international James Collins after Sunday’s game.
“These guys were all extremely distraught about what is a big loss to football and of course to Gary’s family,” McLeish said. “But the players showed great professionalism. Shay told me the news 10 minutes before I gave my team talk and I told them to make the game a tribute to Gary.”
Republic of Ireland international Given kept goal against Speed’s Wales in his first match in charge of the national team in February the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Last year, Given was featured in Donegal’s Sporting Greats, a book penned by Ciaran O’Donnell of the Donegal Democrat, and spoke fondly of Speed.
“I’ve met some fantastic people down the years and I still would be friendly with Gary Speed,” Given said. “I played with Gary at Newcastle for six years. he’s a super guy.”