Mail man who knew late Wales boss Gary Speed during his Newcastle United days pays his tribute

Mail news editor Ian Willis got to know Gary Speed well.
Mail news editor Ian Willis got to know Gary Speed well.
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MAIL news editor IAN WILLIS got to know Gary Speed well during his time working as a journalist at Newcastle United Football Club.

Today, he pays tribute to the much-respected Wales manager, who was found dead at his home on Sunday morning.

AFTER getting a call to ask if I’d “heard the news”, I spent most of Sunday staring in disbelief at the TV as the football world paid tribute to Gary Speed.

I got to know Gary well during my time working at St James’s Park, and as the club’s website journalist one of my key tasks was to get the opinions of the players to relay to the fans.

When things were going well on the pitch – as they often did during my time at the club in the Sir Bobby Robson era – interviewing the players was a labour of love.

But grabbing an interview with a player after a humiliating defeat at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or Anfield wasn’t quite as easy, and many of them would often trot out the “haven’t got time” line as I stood with an empty notebook to fill.

But Gary Speed was different. He knew his responsibilities.

While many of the players would jump in their Ferraris and head back to the WAG at the mansion, Gary always had time for a chat. He was courteous, respectful, opinionated and knowledgeable.”

Read more of Ian Willis’s comments in today’s Sportmail.