Lennon pays tribute to Gary Speed

Gary Speed

Neil Lennon last night paid his own tribute to Gary Speed.

An emotional Lennon spoke at length about his former Premiership rival yesterday.

And he admitted he is still struggling to accept the Wales boss could have taken his own life.

Lennon said: “On Sunday I was looking at the TV and I had to look at the screen a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

“Like everyone else around the club my thoughts go to his family and close friends.

“He was a wonderful player. People ask me who was my toughest opponent and in the Premiership Gary would have been in my top three. I never enjoyed playing against him. He was a real competitor, a class player, strong.

“He was one of those hard men who didn’t go shouting about it. When he hit you in a tackle you really felt it but he didn’t rub it in your face. He just got on with it.

“He was fantastic in the air. He used to make late runs into the box and he scored a lot of headed goals.

“The longevity of his career was something to be admired. He was the consummate pro. He was a manager’s dream and I’m sure he would have been a dream of a manager.

“I was on a course with him six weeks ago with his assistant, Raymond, and we chewed the fat about football for a good half an hour, 40 minutes. I didn’t really know him, just through playing against him the odd time, but just like everyone else I was stunned.

“The progress Wales were making was meteoric over the past three or four games so it makes the outcome even more surprising.

“It’s bad enough him passing away but the circumstances leave you even more shocked.

“I don’t think anyone saw it coming – just when everything seemed to be going so well, he’d worked so hard to get Wales back to being a respectable football nation again.”