The emotion was still raw and the club very much in mourning with the midweek trip to the Midlands somewhat of an afterthought.
Travelling down the M1 on November 30 was a sobering experience – on one hand football didn’t matter, but on the other Speed deserved a fitting tribute from a club to whom he gave so much.
A family had lost a father, a husband, a brother and a son while a football team had lost an icon, one who was beloved by those of a certain age standing on the terraces that night.
Speed – a man who had amassed 312 appearances for the Whites, scoring 57 goals – lived the dream at Elland Road, and it was a dream that so many supporters had lived through him.
The Welsh midfielder had signed terms in West Yorkshire as a 14-year-old – the same day as close friend and then Leeds manager Simon Grayson.
Handed his debut at 19, he went on to earn promotion to the top flight in 1990 before shocking English football by helping United lift the old first division title just two years later in 1992.
It is hard to put into words the feeling when a ball was first kicked under the lights in Nottingham. The majority of the 3,597-strong away following were too choked to sing as banners, scarves and shirts were held aloft in his memory.
In the 11th minute – Speed’s old Whites number – supporters found their voices, finishing a minute’s applause by singing his name for 11 straight minutes. Some things in life just cannot be explained and what came next was one of those moments.
As the tribute ended, Robert Snodgrass swung his left boot – it had to be his left – and tucked the ball into the bottom corner of the net from outside the box to signal an emotion-fuelled roar like no other.
Jonny Howson quickly followed with a stunning volley –one Speed would’ve been proud of – before Luciano Becchio’s header made it three while Adam Clayton put the exclamation point on a 4-0 hammering.
At full-time, Grayson stood and applauded the Leeds support for what felt like an eternity – taking a moment to release the emotion from a draining night. A point to the sky for Speed said it all as he finally departed.
“It’s been a difficult couple of days for myself and Gary’s family, supporters of Leeds United and supporters in general,” said Grayson after the game.
“Gary Speed was a fantastic person and I wanted my players to go out and produce a performance for him tonight.
“That was right out of the top locker of our performances tonight. It was very poignant that the first goal [from Snodgrass] came right as the 11 minutes of singing ended and was a left-footed shot.
“Gary Speed scored many goals like that. It’s been difficult, but I’m a very proud manager tonight. I’m delighted to have got a result for Gary Speed.”
Forest never stood a chance. Gary Speed, Leeds got one for you.
The Samaritans can be contacted free at any time of day or night, call 116123 or email [email protected]