Wales’ defeat to Costa Rica in the Gary Speed Memorial game Wednesday was a wonderful and emotionally charged occasion – the score excepted – in which Welsh football paid its last respects to a man who over the past twelve months had transformed the fortunes of the Wales national side. The maturity of Speed’s sons, 14-year-old Ed and his brother, 13-year-old Tommy, was moving to witness and personified the class and dignity of their father, who tragically took his own life last November.
In his post-game press conference, new manager Chris Coleman, who attended this game as an observer to the Welsh squad following his appointment last month, spoke equally touchingly of Ed’s addresses to the Wales players and to an assembled audience of more than 400 of Speed’s former footballing friends, colleagues and mentors.
The whole event served as a fine and fitting occasion on which Welsh football can begin to draw a line under the Speed tragedy and move forward in its ambitions to continue its climb under the rankings and get back to pushing for qualification to major tournaments.
The problem is, Coleman may well find that progress difficult to sustain.