Al Habsi pays tribute to Gary Speed

Tragic Gary Speed

Tragic Gary Speed

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ALI Al Habsi last night added a poignant tribute to his former team-mate and friend Gary Speed.

Former Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder Speed was found dead at his home on the outskirts of Chester on Sunday.

Friends, team-mates and colleagues have queued up to pay their respects to the Welshman in the aftermath.

And the Wigan No.1 – who played alongside Speed at Bolton between 2006-08 – was eager to join them.

“I was shocked when I heard the news about Gary. It’s very, very sad news,” Al Habsi told the Evening Post.

“It was a bad day for me and a bad day for football as well. We spent two years together at Bolton, and he was a fantastic man to be around and a great player to work alongside.

“Gary went out of his way to help the younger players and the foreign players settle into the club, and I’ll never forget that about him.

“He helped me on the training pitch, and he helped me off the pitch. I learned so much off him.

“He had a fantastic career at club level as well as with Wales, and was doing an amazing job as their manager.

“To get the job as a national coach at just 41 shows the standing in which he was held – that doesn’t happen to many people.”

Al Habsi recalled many happy afternoons spent on the Bolton training ground with Speed, then at the veteran stage of his career, fine-tuning his set-pieces against a young goalkeeper from Oman trying to make his way in the game.

“I have so many fond memories of Gary, it’s hard to know where to start,” Al Habsi added.

“I used to spend many an hour after training had finished with him. He liked to practice his free-kicks and penalties.

“He had a fantastic left foot and it was a real eye-opener for me, but I enjoyed just being around him.

“You saw the reaction of Shay Given on Sunday, and he obviously spent a lot of time with Gary at Newcastle, maybe doing the same thing.

“When you are a goalkeeper, you have a unique relationship with the other players at training, and I will always cherish the time I spent with Gary during those years.”