GARY Speed’s widow Louise will lead the tributes at Elland Road today as Leeds United play at home for the first time since the death of their former midfielder.
A crowd of around 26,000 is expected for the visit of Millwall as fans, team-mates and friends of the 42-year-old Wales manager join together to pay their respects to United’s late hero.
Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan and David Batty – the three remaining members of the midfield that brought the League title to Leeds in 1991-92 – will all be at the game to honour Speed, who signed for the Yorkshire club at the age of 14 on the same day as current manager Simon Grayson.
But it is the presence of Speed’s widow and the couple’s two teenage sons Ed and Tommy that is likely to be the main focus of what – from the moment the news of Speed’s apparent suicide emerged last Sunday – was always going to be one of the most emotionally-charged days in the club’s recent history.
As part of the tributes, a video montage charting Speed’s eight years in the Leeds first team will be played on Elland Road’s giant electronic screen.
Put together by the staff of LUTV, the club’s in-house television station, the video starts with Speed lifting the League Championship in 1992 and goes on to feature many of his highlights in a Leeds shirt.
The two teams will then walk out of the tunnel five minutes before the 12.30pm kick-off to ‘Eye of the Tiger’, the tune that Howard Wilkinson’s side ran out to during the 1989-90 season that ended in the clinching of promotion back to the top flight.
A minute’s applause will follow before Grayson and Millwall manager Kenny Jackett lay a wreath apiece behind the two goals. A third wreath will also be laid in front of the West Stand by Strachan, McAllister and Batty.
Louise Speed’s decision to attend the game at Leeds has caused Newcastle United, another of the Wales manager’s former clubs, to delay their own tribute by a fortnight.
Initially, the North East club had planned on paying their respects at today’s game against Chelsea when a Welsh opera singer Gwyn Hughes was due to lead fans in a rendition of Bread of Heaven. It will instead take place on December 17 ahead of the home game against Swansea City.
Sheffield United, the club where Speed’s management career began, are also paying their respects today ahead of the FA Cup tie with Torquay United.