Gary Speed arrived at St James Park around a year and a half after Alan Shearer had made his move back home.
Kenny Dalglish signing the midfielder from Everton in February 1998 for £5.5m.
Like a lot of players that your club sign, it is only once you are regularly watching them that you find out what they are really all about.
With Gary Speed, he was an all action midfielder who did a bit of everything but who was especially good in the air.
What will always stick out for is just how good and brave he was in the penalty area, arriving into the box and his only focus on sticking the ball in the back of the net, invariably with his head.
Unbelievable how quickly time passes, tomorrow (Saturday 27 November 2021) will mark ten years since we lost Gary Speed.
Alan Shearer has marked the occasion by speaking to a lot of people who knew Gary Speed, some great stuff in his article for The Athletic. An excellent read and highly recommended.
Below is just part of the introduction from Alan Shearer, talking about his great friend and former teammate, Gary Speed.
Alan Shearer emotionally declaring: ‘November 27, 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Gary’s death. Even now, it is impossible to compute. The Speedo I knew was happy, admired by everyone who came across him, which is pretty much unique in football. That smile – plastered across his face – was what I knew. But the Gary I knew also took his own life and the knowing and the not knowing are still devastating.’
Alan Shearer talking to The Athletic about his friend Gary Speed – Ten years after his death:
‘It was the way he walked, like a strut, on his toes, and it made Gary Speed look three or four inches taller.
When you walk into a dressing room for the first time, players try to suss you out, good or bad, and those early impressions stick. There was confidence there, not arrogance, but a kind of aura. He was measured and quiet to begin with, but his body language said a lot.
I didn’t know Speedo as a person, but I remember that strut and I remember thinking, ‘This guy has a bit about him’.
I did know him as a player; a proud Welshman, he’d won the title at Leeds United and then moved on to Everton, the team he supported as a kid. I’d played against him but didn’t realise quite how good he was until he joined us at Newcastle United in February 1998. He had that gravity-defying leap and a sorcerer’s wand for a left foot. He was brilliant and reliable. Tough. Indestructible.
He was 28, but immediately became the standard-bearer for fitness at the club, constantly popping vitamins. In running sessions, he’d lead from the front and I’d be trailing miles behind. He’d look around and laugh… Ah, man, that laugh of his. It was unexpected, high-pitched, squeaky, and your face would melt just hearing it, even when you were blowing out of your arse.
That was Speedo; always smiling through.
Something clicked. We’d do the school run, get into work early and have breakfast. We had the same ideas about professionalism. There was a core of senior players – Rob Lee, Warren Barton, Shay Given, Steve Harper – and we had a Sunday club, where we’d meet in the pub for a couple of pints and watch football. Gary would be first at the bar. That was his personality.
November 27, 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Gary’s death. Even now, it is impossible to compute. The Speedo I knew was happy, admired by everyone who came across him, which is pretty much unique in football. That smile – plastered across his face – was what I knew.
But the Gary I knew also took his own life and the knowing and the not knowing are still devastating.’