Louise Speed sits on a gray sofa in her lovely house near Chester. Alfie, her four-year old cockapoo, is sitting at Louise Speed’s feet. Just beyond the garden fence are two pheasants competing for territory. This is late-autumn beauty.

Louise believes that it is the worst month and week of the year. It is the anniversary of her husband Gary’s passing. 

Gary Speed was the “boy-next door” footballer that so many loved and admired. Louise found happiness again after 10 years.

There will never be answers explaining why Gary — manager of his beloved Wales at the time — took his own life the morning after a night spent with friends in November 2011. Louise, however, has found somewhere to store the hurt and sheer disbelief that will undoubtedly endure.

She disappears most often at this time of the year. Often to New York where her and Gary’s two sons, Eddie and Tommy, are studying. She is always there. She has decided to talk this year.

‘I know this weekend is significant for people because it’s the 10th anniversary,’ Louise tells Sportmail. ‘But it’s not for me. It’s no different to the previous nine years. Gary is my September birthday. That’s when I have a drink to him. That’s my day of thought and celebration of Gary.

On the 10th anniversary of Gary Speed's shocking death, widow Louise (pictured) opens up in her first interview on how she and her two sons are finally finding acceptance

Louise, the widow (pictured), discusses how Gary Speed’s death 10 years ago.

‘But the anniversary is always different. It’s there, it’s looming and I dread it. For me, November is an infrequent month. I just can’t wait for the month to disappear.’

Louise Speed’s time with you is life-affirming. She has a remarkable story, one that is both full of trauma and also filled with recovery and discoveries. We share many laughs and some tears together.

She is 51 now and has rebuilt her life and her sense of self from the dreadful two years that immediately followed Gary’s death.

It was an era when she couldn’t get off her sofa, and felt like she was being smothered in a blanket of universal sympathies. She relied heavily on alcohol for a while. It’s not so anymore.

‘I was 41 when it happened and it felt so young to have that label as a widow,’ she says. 

Speed, manager of his beloved Wales at the time, tragically took his own life in November 2011

Speed, the manager of Wales, died tragically in November 2011.

‘It felt very uncomfortable. Although people were very kind, sometimes all it took was one glance.

‘I was almost caught in a barbed wire situation where that was all I felt. “I was trapped in this pit of sympathy and pity.

‘It was like being in the worst nightmare possible. No one could give me an answer and Gary was nowhere to be found. There was no way to get it right the second time around.

‘I was trudging through life, just functioning. I’d happily take it if I could be anyone other than me for long periods of time. Now, it’s been 10 years. It’s a cliche but time is a healer even if it takes years. Life can be wonderful again. 

‘I feel different in myself. Although I feel many emotions, they are not directly in my face. It is something I am aware of. I am Gary’s widow and I can say it now. Every day I think about him. 

“It might just be a flashback, or I will see an object and wonder what he would do.” Most often now it’s nice thoughts. Myself is back, and my boys all have their mother back. They had only half of a mother back then, and I was afraid they would lose their father.

Louise was 41 years old when the event occurred and said that she was’so young’ to have been labelled a widow.

‘It was not fair on them above all. I had also been lost to them. However, it is now back. They have me back.’

Louise met Gary, 15, on their first date in Flintshire at Hawarden’s tennis club. Gary forgot his racket. Instead, they talked and walked.

‘Lots of the girls fancied him,’ she smiles. ‘He was a good-looking boy. I was probably one of the ones who thought he was “all right”. It’s cool to play it cool

‘He was quite a shy boy but through other people he asked me out. As you would do at your age. By the third person asking me I was like: “OK then I will…”

‘We had a lovely walk and even then he was saying he would like a nice home and be able to fish in his garden. He stated that he wanted to have the opportunity to raise his children in a comfortable home. They were his beliefs from the beginning and never changed. He was humble. Grounded.

‘When I think of him I think of us as a family. He with his boys. Holidays. He practicing the guitar. It was the exact same chords, and it required me to listen. 

‘The good times I remember are not necessarily the football but family life. He was clearly devoted to football, his life and his profession. But I enjoyed Gary at his best when football was not properly involved.’

For 20 years, Louise gave herself to Gary’s career. After he was awarded the Division One title, she moved to Leeds and married Howard Wilkinson. He followed her back to the North West, Everton and finally to Newcastle. Speed played later at Bolton, and eventually Sheffield United.

Louise and Gary first met in their teens and had a date at their local tennis club in Hawarden

Louise and Gary met their first time in high school. They had their first date in Hawarden at the local tennis club.

Louise wasn’t a complainer, but she longed for something simpler. He would eventually retire and she wanted a simpler life. Speed’s departure from her at a time when she felt life was slowing down is one of the tragedies in this tale. She feels utterly betrayed by all the time ahead, which is quite understandable.

‘Yes that’s for certain,’ she says. ‘We had our first Easter holiday together in March 2011. It was our first Easter holiday together, in March 2011.

‘He loved the Wales job but it was not so full-on. This allowed us to plan and book. It was exciting. Gary died later that year.’

Eddie Speed and Tommy Speed also feel this sense of injustice living in New York. Their father passed away when the boys were just 14 and 13. They are both talented athletes and footballers. ‘It hasn’t been easy but we are getting there,’ Tommy tells Sportmail. ‘It has been hard to move on but I have to.

‘I am proud of Dad. His matches and goals are always on my mind. But I couldn’t be the man I am today without mum.’

Speed is a passionate and curious traveler. The beach was not the only thing family holidays included. He would surely be proud to see how his sons flew.

Louise moved with Gary (left) to Leeds, where he won the old Division One title under Howard Wilkinson in 1992

Louise moved with Gary (left) to Leeds, where he won the old Division One title under Howard Wilkinson in 1992

They soon married and Louise would give herself to Gary's career for the next 20 years

The couple soon got married, and Louise was ready to give up her career for Gary over the next twenty years.

‘Every day I think about dad,’ explains Eddie.

‘I do think about his death and the way he left us. We should be talking about the great times. One-on-one sessions, watching football and dressing up for a game at Wrexham the following day.

‘I know how proud he would be of me and Tommy. It is amazing how much we have changed. It’s amazing how much we look alike!

‘A big thing for me, which he would want the most, is the respect and the manners we try to show to the people we meet. When you speak to someone, be courteous and friendly. That’s what he would be most proud of.

‘It’s the little things that help us carry on and move forward in life.’ 

Speed played for Newcastle United between 1998 and 2004

Speed played his later football at Bolton (pictured) and finally Sheffield United

Louise followed him back to the north-west to Everton and then to Newcastle (left). Speed played at Bolton, and later with Sheffield United.

They were both at home on the terrible day their father died. They refused to let Louise leave her home and force her to move for several years. For a while she thought of fleeing to America, to San Diego where Speed’s old Newcastle team-mate and friend Warren Barton lives with his wife.

She stayed for Eddie and Tommy. She got them through. The two of them made it through. ‘I was very lonely and it was actually Tommy who triggered me to get past that a little bit,’ Louise explains.

‘I would be laid on the couch every night after 6pm — just staring somewhere and kind of just being there. It would have been a place for the boys to play.

‘But it was Tommy who actually went to ask my neighbour Sarah if she would come over and just sit with his mum. From that point on, I began going around there. This helped.

‘But yes I was lonely. Anyone who’s lost someone knows this. It’s not having someone there to do nothing with, if that makes sense. Since I wasn’t allowed to choose between my family and me, I believed I was okay on my own.

‘Everything came to me all in one hit. It was the pain, loneliness, abandonment, devastation and the shock. The early years were all about getting over it.

Sons Eddie (right) and Tommy (left), pictured on a family holiday with mum Louise, have very fond memories of their father

Eddie and Tommy, sons of the same father (right), are pictured with their mother Louise on a family vacation.

“That’s all you could really do. Gary would be proud of how we did it. It would be amazing if he were to look at us right now. They have found themselves.

‘They are Eddie and Tommy Speed. That’s it.’ 

Louise doesn’t know what Gary did. She is careful not to be tortured by questions she does not know the answers to. Finally, she appears ready to forgive him. It took over a decade, two times of counselling and grief therapy for her to finally forgive him.

‘Have I forgiven Gary?’ Louise says with a deep sigh. ‘I ask myself this often. What can I do? Can I? Are you?

‘I don’t know. He has done so much to hurt his friends and family, including his children and me. We all feel the emptiness he left. So I don’t know. I just don’t know if I have forgiven him yet or not. However, it is something I do want.

‘The anger has only just subsided and that is part of it. Although I felt angry at him for quite some time, that did not stop me from being strong. It’s when I released that anger that I felt a little bit vulnerable.

‘You do have to start feeling real emotions again, though. If you don’t then you don’t move on.’

Speed did not like to talk about his most intimate feelings. Louise acknowledges Speed was not a person who would admit weakness. He must have been mentally ill, says Louise.

Louise walks her four-year-old Cockapoo Alfie near her beautiful home near Chester

Louise walks her four-year-old Cockapoo Alfie near her beautiful home near Chester

A few years back she was going through her possessions when she found a letter from him that he’d written, but hadn’t sent to her since he arrived in Leeds. He admits that he had thoughts of suicide in the letter. He was 17.

‘That letter was never sent,’ she says. ‘That was the first I knew of it. My conclusion was that Gary must have mental illness to be able to perform what he did. He couldn’t talk, didn’t want to talk. The League Managers Association gave him every chance to talk.

‘If anybody in football had come to him with problems he would have sent them off in the right direction. But he didn’t do that for himself. So all I can say or presume is that he didn’t want to or couldn’t talk about whatever it was.’

Speed was not a man who talked about his deepest feelings and Louise admits that he was not the type to admit to weakness

Speed was not a man who talked about his deepest feelings and Louise admits that he was not the type to admit to weakness

Louise keeps the memories of that day 10 years ago in her head.

‘I try not to ever go there,’ she says. ‘If I could have some kind of injection to erase some vision or memory that would be the one. If that could just go away…’

Speed’s formative years in football were the 1980s. Speed had the perfect mentors in Leeds, Gordon Strachan and Howard Wilkinson.

English football was still a challenging environment back then. Louise is naturally curious if her husband’s profession has placed too much stress on him.

‘If you look back at all the original football cultures, where Gary was brought up, well you know what people say,’ she reflects. 

‘I never knew much about football but even I have read about the culture and Gary was in the middle of that.

‘It was macho back then. It is unlikely that any of them would have been open to one another. This was all about hardcore. It’s sad.

‘Today’s culture seems to have come full circle and that’s wonderful. There is no stigma if anyone experiences a problem now in the change room, or anywhere else. Talking with men is a must.

‘Maybe what happened to Gary started the ball rolling. Since then, I believe that things have moved forward. Gary should have spoken to me. Only someone. There is always a solution to everything.’  

Speed boys are now able to travel home once again due to the removal of US travel restrictions. The Speed boys will soon be able to show old footage from their dad when they travel home. Louise is a non-football fan, but she embraces this ritual.

So many people inside and outside the game loved and admired Speed throughout his life

Speed is loved by many outsiders and insiders alike throughout his lifetime.

‘I love watching the tackles he used to put in as it makes me laugh,’ says Tommy, studying business at Adelphi University in New York. 

‘I like to watch videos of people talking about him, hearing about the ways he affected people’s careers. It was hard to see how it affected his family when he was a manager. It was obvious the amount of pressure that he was feeling. But some of the moments with Wales were brilliant, such good times.’

Speed wasn’t one who displayed his life in public. Louise once had his Wales caps framed, but he didn’t do anything else with them. He kept his collection of shirts in a container. He asked for the only thing that could be mounted to his collection of shirts, the teamsheet from when he managed Wales against England.

‘It’s because of dad that Tommy and I work so hard every day,’ stresses Eddie, an economics graduate from Boston’s Lowell University. ‘There are many times when I look at the phone and just want to see Dad there. I also think that I will text him.

‘If I am playing a game I want to send him the link and we could speak about it.

‘I feel as though this world is losing great people too often. It doesn’t surprise me to hear people say Dad was one of them.’

The lifting of US travel restrictions mean that the Speed boys can travel home again (Eddie left, Tommy right)

Speed boys are now able to travel home from the USA after US travel restrictions have been lifted (Eddie left, Tommy was right)

The Speed family has made a difference over the past 10 years, as football and the community have contributed.

Craig Bellamy, Shay Given and Alan Shearer from Newcastle have all been generous in their time and support. ‘They have been like big brothers,’ says Louise. ‘And of course their wives have been amazing too.’

A family can’t be led through this, however. The journey of grief is one that can be done largely by yourself. Speed’s mother Carol has said in the past that she does not think she will ever find peace.

What about Louise?

‘I have thought about this and I think at one time the only time I felt peace was when I was asleep,’ she explains. ‘There were times, if I am honest, when I didn’t want to wake up.

‘Not that I would ever have done anything to harm myself like that but it was just easier to be asleep as it meant I could escape all my thoughts and feelings for a while.

‘Happily that has all gone now. I don’t think the shock will ever go. That is all there is. Maybe it’s disbelief. Let’s put it this way. While I may find peace, I’ll always remain in disbelief. That’s it. That’s where I am at.’

Louise, who is quite private, has entered a new romantic relationship. While she may not have moved very far, her emotional journey has been extensive. They are still scars. She feels that she is able to live with the scars now.

‘I don’t think you move on from something like this as the same person,’ she says. ‘I have become wiser. I feel more confident than ever before.

Speed was never one to display his life on the walls of the house - Louise once framed his Wales caps but he never did anything with it

Speed wasn’t one who displayed his life on the walls. Louise had once frammed his Wales caps, but never made anything of it.

‘But I tend to wear a body of armour around me the whole time, if I am honest — so that I cannot be hurt again. We all go through different stages in our lives and I find that it is easier to deal with them now than I was before. There is nothing that scares or frightens me anymore.

‘I don’t know if that body of armour has developed over time or whether I deliberately put it on at some point. All I know is that it is there now and it wasn’t 10 years ago.

‘I just want to protect myself from life. I don’t want to feel or go through anything like that ever again. I hope that makes sense.’

Louise Speed asked for a donation in exchange to this interview. 

EDDIE SPEE: Tommy and I are so proud of each other!

Dad’s smile and laughter meant that he was happy. He was most happy when he was around his family or friends. 

It didn’t matter to him so it was no problem for us. We enjoyed the few moments he spent with us, particularly when he smiled and laughed.

I was always proud of Dad in everything he did and he used to tell me: ‘Do your best at everything and anything’. Tommy, Mum and me were inspired by him. 

Every day, I am reminded of what Dad accomplished as a player for his country and club throughout his football career. We are so proud of our family’s achievements and feel honored to play against some of the best players.

When he realized he was going to be retiring, his passion was to do good. With the knowledge he gained from playing, and with the guidance he got from high-profile managers, he wanted to make a difference in the lives of other players. 

I couldn't be prouder of my Dad for everything he gave to football, managing and our family

For everything he did for football, management and the family, I couldn’t be more proud of him.

His personality and influence were always evident, so it was natural that he would be managed after his playing career.

Dad worked so many hours managing the business, pitch, and office, it was difficult for him to find the time to be with his family, as that is what he wanted. 

Dad never missed an opportunity to take me to Wrexham F.C matches, footie training and match practice. He also did the same for Tommy with his boxing and football.

Because he gave all he had to football, management, and his family, I couldn’t be prouder.

Without a father, life is going to be hard. It has been difficult to lose someone who gave so much. He knew we relied upon him for all things. Grandma, Grandad and Grandpa were also taken care of by Dad. 

It was him that made everything seem possible. Over the 10 years, we have all felt a profound impact from that feeling of security and family love.

There are many times where I just want to look at the phone and see Dad, then I’ll think to myself….’Ah I’m busy right now I’ll text him’.

If I play a US game, which is what I am currently based, I can send the link to him, and he’d be able to watch the video. We’d then talk about what we did, what was good, or what could have been better.

Aside from following in the footsteps of my father, I continue to walk that path. I haven’t made one professional appearance since age 24. He would have done anything to help me get that chance if he were there for me. I know I will give it my all.

You have to be strong and do the right thing for your family and yourself. While I still think about Dad every day, it is not so much about him dying and how we lost him. 

It’s something I think about, but I really care about those good times with him. We went out one-on-1 to see the football. Then we dressed up and played with Wrexham F.C.

He always had that influential character and personality both as a player and then a manager

Both as a player, and later as a manager, he was a strong personality and character. 

When he was playing or managing, I think of the time he spent with them and how highly they spoke to players that he had managed.

He would be proud of Tommy and me, I know that. We have grown up together and look similar to each other.

He is my inspiration every day. That’s why I work very hard each day. It could be schoolwork, general work or our efforts off the pitch.

For him, the most important thing is having the right manners and respect for all people we encounter. His greatest accomplishments would include being courteous and smiling when conversing with someone. The little things are what help us move on with our lives.

Mum is our rock. Even though she may think that she isn’t, Mum has been a rock for us all. Mum became a role model for us because she was so strong. 

She makes me think: ‘Right, look how strong mum has been through this’. Tommy and I are leaving the United States today with bachelor degrees because of her efforts to overcome and persevere.

I know how proud he would be of us, how we've grown maturely and how we both look like him (Eddie left, Tommy right)

I know how proud he would be of us, how we’ve grown maturely and how we both look like him (Eddie left, Tommy right) 

Our pride is in being able support Tommy and myself with our school, our sports, and giving us the chance to keep going after Dad’s death.

You can always tell someone that they are a wonderful person, regardless if it is your mother, father, brother, or friend. 

This world seems to be losing people I believe. It is difficult for me to live a life of integrity and respect others, regardless of their actions. People often say Dad was great because he held great values.

He would let me know if I made a mistake and he’d make sure I didn’t do it again.

TOMMY’S SPEED: I am proud to be a manager and player, and of my dad for his two decades of playing at the highest level. Watching some of the tackles that he did never ceases to make me smile! 

My dad always smiled and laughed at me. Holidays always come to mind, we’d go on the best family holidays. The bad memories are rare, if any, that I can recall. 

I can remember going on a ride called ‘The Tower of Terror’ at Disneyland with my dad. He was laughing so much at how scared I was and how I didn’t want to admit to it. At the time, I was just three years old.

And family BBQs where my dad would always get his guitar out after a few beers and we’d all have a sing along.

As a player and a manager I’m proud of my dad, playing 20 years at the highest level and then managing his national team. 

It is always fun to watch old matches and goals. It’s so much fun to see his old matches, and the great tackles that he put in. I always find it hilarious. 

I always remember my dad laughing and smiling – I'm so proud of what he achieved in football

I always remember my dad laughing and smiling – I’m so proud of what he achieved in football

He was both a manager at Sheffield United then Wales, and it was quite different from when he played. It was clear to me how much pressure he was feeling and how that affected his home life. Some of his moments in Wales were great, so good times.

Things have not been easy but we’re getting there, I will always miss my dad. It was an enormous step for me to go to American university. This helped put a lot into perspective. 

A vast majority of people are going through similar problems, even friends at home which I didn’t know about. It’s hard to move on but I have to. Family and friends who are great make it easier to move on, and create new memories.

Watching his old matches back and seeing some of his tackles always makes me laugh

It’s always a great laugh to see his old matches and some of his tackles.

As I got older I just realised how strong of a person my mum is and I’m so proud of her. Not only by what she had to go through but the person she is and the people she’s allowed me and Ed to be, the most positive and loving person in my life. 

I couldn’t have been the man I am today and lived such a good life if it wasn’t for my mum.

It always gives me a good feeling when I hear other people speak kind words about my dad, and the different ways he affected people lives and careers, it’s nice to watch interviews of people talking about my dad.