By Polly Dunbar
Emotional: Louise Speed, centre, surrounded by friends and family as fans and former players pay tribute to her late husband
The heartbroken wife of tragic footballer Gary Speed yesterday made her first public appearance since his death.
Louise Speed was in the stands at Elland Road, the home of Gary’s first club, Leeds United, to witness thousands of football fans pay their respects.
In a remarkable outpouring of public sympathy and appreciation, the minute’s remembrance before the Championship match between Leeds and Millwall was filled not with silence, but rapturous applause and the steady chant of ‘Speedo, Speedo’.
Mrs Speed managed a brave smile, while her husband’s former teammates, including Gordon
Strachan, Gary McAllister and David Batty, whom he played with when Leeds won the 1992 First Division title, struggled to hold back tears as they laid wreaths on the pitch.
Across the country the tribalism usually found in football was placed to one side as the sport united in mourning the Wales manager, who was found dead by his wife at his home in Cheshire last Sunday.
There was another moving remembrance before the game at Newcastle United, where Gary played from 1998 to 2004, and a minute’s applause was held before every Premiership match, in recognition of the high regard in which he was held throughout the game.
Mrs Speed, who was supported at Elland Road by family members including the couple’s teenage son, left the ground shortly before half-time to look at the masses of tributes that have been placed during the past seven days around the statue of the club’s legendary captain Billy Bremner.
She spent 15 minutes reading some of the messages on the shirts, scarves, photographs and wreaths left by supporters from many different clubs.
Before the match, hundreds of fans formed a circle around the shrine, many of them in tears.
Earlier in the week supporters of long-time bitter rivals Leeds and Manchester United were seen chatting warmly to each other outside the ground before adding their tributes to the shrine.
Remembering: Fans gathered outside Elland Road to pay their respects to Gary Speed
Leeds' Robert Snodgrass, left, and Andy Keogh, right wear a black armband with Gary Speed's name on it
In memory: Gareth Bale wore boots with the words RIP Gary Speed embroidered on them
A Leeds fan holds up a shirt with his message of support for Gary Speed's wife Louise who watched the match today
Tearful football fans of all ages pay tribute to Gary Speed in the first Leeds United home game since the player took his life
One of the lads: Former team-mates Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan and David Batty laid a wreath at Elland Road this afternoon
Former teammates of Gary Speed from left Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan and David Batty carry a wreath onto the pitch
Leeds players clap after observing a minute's applause before the match today
Toon idol: The team applaud Gary Speed during a minutes clapping for the Magpies idol at St James' Park
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Bravery of Gary Speed's widow as she joins Leeds fans in match-day tribute to late husband at emotional Elland Road
By Polly Dunbar