My friend Speedo, 10 years on, through the eyes of those who knew him – The Athletic

It was the way he walked, like a strut, on his toes, and it made Gary Speed look three or four inches taller.

When you walk into a dressing room for the first time, players try to suss you out, good or bad, and those early impressions stick. There was confidence there, not arrogance, but a kind of aura. He was measured and quiet to begin with, but his body language said a lot.

I didn’t know Speedo as a person, but I remember that strut and I remember thinking, ‘This guy has a bit about him’.

I did know him as a player; a proud Welshman, he’d won the title at Leeds United and then moved on to Everton, the team he supported as a kid. I’d played against him but didn’t realise quite how good he was until he joined us at Newcastle United in February 1998. He had that gravity-defying leap and a sorcerer’s wand for a left foot. He was brilliant and reliable. Tough. Indestructible.

He was 28, but immediately became the standard-bearer for fitness at the club, constantly popping vitamins. In running sessions, he’d lead from the front and I’d be trailing miles behind. He’d look around and laugh… Ah, man, that laugh of his. It was unexpected, high-pitched, squeaky, and your face would melt just hearing it, even when you were blowing out of your arse.

That was Speedo; always smiling through.

Something clicked. We’d do the school run, get into work early and have breakfast. We had the same ideas about professionalism. There was a core of senior players – Rob Lee, Warren Barton, Shay Given, Steve Harper – and we had a Sunday club, where we’d meet in the pub for a couple of pints and watch football.

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