Leeds United: Smiler Speedy never changed his attitude - Ormsby

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Leeds United legend Brendan Ormsby answers your questions.

hi BRENDAN. Gary Speed’s death has left all Leeds fans devastated. What are your memories of Speedo?

Batley White

I knew Speedy for 25 years from when he was a kid at 16 or 17 coming through with David Batty and Simon Grayson at Leeds.

He then started breaking through into the first team and in all the time I knew him, he never changed.

I was lucky enough to be covering the Bolton game for the Press Association when Gary made his 500th appearance in the Premier League and I remember his wife and two kids were there and went out with him when he got his award on the pitch.

But he always stayed just the same, as he did in management.

He was never one of those who got so far up himself that he would never speak to you anymore.

He always had time to have a quick chat, although usually the first thing he would do with me was take the mickey and then we’d have a chat!

I’m not the best-looking chap in the world and Speedy was gorgeous, that’s what I used always used to call him, while he would have a go at my looks.

Chat

That’s how it always was. I remember when we beat Sheffield United at Elland Road last season and I was coming through the car park late on and Speedy pulled up in his car and we had a chat for about 10 or 15 minutes about the game and how he was enjoying management before we went home.

I’ll always remember one thing quite a few years back when I was out of work.

I think Speedy was still at Leeds at the time and I was on the dole and things weren’t going too well for me.

I did Gary a little favour; I can’t exactly remember what I did and a week later, he rang me as all the Leeds lads were going out for a drink and they asked me to come. I just said: ‘I can’t come, I’m not in work, I can’t really spend money on drink.’

Speedy just said: ‘Look, we’ll take you out and pay for you for that favour you did me last week, we’ll sort you out.’ As a bloke, I said no because I don’t like going out and not paying.

A lot of blokes don’t like taking drinks off people if they can’t afford to buy them back, but I still really appreciated the offer.

When we went out as a group at Leeds in the early days, it was a nightmare with Speedy. The girls were all over him; they just used to swarm around him!

Over the years, when I was running the Leeds ex-players association, Speedy also played a few times for me in charity games and we’d also bump into each other now and again.

When you saw people like Gary and the other ex-Leeds lads, it was if you had never been apart.

Remembering Gary, he always had a lovely giggle on him as well. He had a boyish sense of humour and loved a laugh and a joke with the lads and taking the mick and didn’t mind it being taken out of him as well.

On the pitch, he was a hell of a player. He looked after his team-mates and himself during a game, but was never malicious.

He did have a hell of a physique on him and while not being the biggest lad in the world, was a brilliant header of the ball for his height and scored some great goals.

He was also a nice lad who never gave you any cheek and was always willing to listen to advice from older pros. It obviously worked out as he had a hell of a career.

I look at today’s footballers and I think a lot of them are ignorant so-and-so’s.

As a man, none or them could stand up to Speedy in terms of being polite and decent to people.

It’s just so sad... I’ve lost two really good friends and ex team-mates in the last few years in Gary and Paul Birch, who played with me at Villa.

Family

Every time you hear of a former team mate dying, you feel it as it’s like an extension of your family.

Back in the days I played, the team spirit was a lot stronger and there was more bonding. Now, there’s a lot more highly-paid superstars and it was more of a working-class thing in my day.

Like everyone else I couldn’t believe the news on Sunday.

I’d just gone out of the house for a walk with the dog up the river and my wife phoned me and I knew straightaway from her voice someone had died.

Once she said the name, I couldn’t believe it...

My wife has also known Speedy as long as I have and she couldn’t come to terms with it either.

I had calls throughout the day from ex-players such as John Stiles and I even spoke to Noel Blake the other day as well; he called me from Switzerland where he was with the England Under-19 squad.

I know Gary was 42, but I’d still call him a lad and he must have been in some dark place. I don’t know what was going on in his mind, he was on telly on Football Focus and then so many hours later, he’s dead...

His football world was going great and the Welsh players were wanting to play for him.

I’ve seen all the tributes by the ex-pros and his former team-mates on the box and while when someone (famous) usually dies and you hear other people talk about him and think: ‘That’s a load of rubbish’, with Gary – repeating what everybody else has said – you couldn’t say a bad word about the lad.

The Leeds fans were different class chanting Gary’s name for 11 minutes at Forest and with all the tribute’s at Billy’s statue.

It brings a tear to your eye, not just the tributes from Leeds, but his other clubs as well.

One thing’s for sure, Gary will have a hell of a turn out for his funeral.

DADDY COOL: Leeds United striker and new father Pierre-Michel Lasogga. Picture by Simon Hulme.

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