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Oh Gary, Gary.....

Ever wondered why the Everton Fans dislike Speed SO much?

NB: The following piece was written while Gary Speed was a Newcastle player and over eight years before his sudden and tragic passing in 2011.

After some consideration, we've elected to leave this available online, content that there's nothing there that would reasonably cause distress or discomfort to anyone reading it:

With our annual trip to Everton now imminent, thought that the time had finally come to air one particular Goodison-related old wives tale that continues to vex us.

As sure as night follows day, Goodison Park will reverberate to the sound of a familiar chant: "Oh Gary Gary, Gary Gary Gary Sh*thouse Speed."

While nobody expects the level of reception that Les Ferdinand gets at SJP to be repeated for all returning ex-players, there's normally a valid reason when a former darling of the crowd becomes the target of such terrace bile.

Think of Paul Ince at West Ham after his Manchester United cross-dressing moment while still a Hammer, or more pertinently the lack of booing or derision that accompanied a return visit by Andy Cole, until he was caught by the TV cameras in his infamous rendition of "cheer up Kevin Keegan..." 

Speed's crime was not that the lifelong Evertonian spurned the captaincy and chose to walk away from his boyhood heroes in early 1998. Even the most clueless Blue was pragmatic enough to realise that their massive debts had to be serviced by the departure of big names for big prices. Hence the warm reception afforded to Duncan Ferguson when he returned to the blue half of Merseyside in a black and white shirt in March 2000.

No, Speed's crime was to mysteriously fail to turn up for the coach taking Everton to an away game at West Ham in January 1998, an act that could be deemed out of character for a player who has never been newsworthy due to off-field antics and is considered enough of an example to captain his country. 

Having been bothered by this apparent blot on his copybook, we took the opportunity of asking the player himself one night when he was out on the Quayside.

When asked whether it bothered him that he was Public Enemy number one at Goodison, Speed shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of resignation but was happy to give us this version of events.

You may recall that the deal that brought him to Tyneside was somewhat protracted, with miserable Kenny making an initial bid of 5m in late January 1998 - the week before Everton were due to play at West Ham. Upon receipt of the bid from Newcastle, Blues boss Howard Kendall informed Speed of the bid, but confirmed it was insufficient. He also told the player that he thought Newcastle would come back with an improved sum, which would be accepted by the Goodison board.

Aware of the financial plight of Everton and keen to join NUFC, Speed willingly went along with Kendall's request to do things "his way" and complied when the manager told him not to report for the trip to West Ham as Howard thought he "wouldn't be in the right frame of mind to play."

Imagine his surprise later that evening, when Speed checked teletext for the final score and saw a story quoting Kendall as being furious with Speed for his 'no show' and publicly vowing to rid himself of this trouble maker forthwith.

Not surprisingly Speed sought out Kendall to ask him what the hell he was
playing at lying to the press and blackening his reputation. Kendall's
response was that it was easier to placate the Goodison faithful, sell Speed, and bank the money if Speed looked like he was in dispute, refusing to play and therefore forcing the hand of the club.

To complete the stitch-up, it was suggested that any hint of the events that had unfolded appearing in the press would see the Newcastle switch collapse, leaving the player to face the wrath of the Goodison crowd.

Speed finally joined Newcastle in a 5.5m deal on 6th February 1998, and was greeted by the afore-mentioned song when he returned to Goodison later that month. He's been hearing it ever since.

Howard Kendall left Everton in July 1998, after 11 wins in 42 games. 

We'll leave the final word to the excellent Toffeeweb Everton website (unofficial, of course...)

"Evertonians should not fool themselves: Gary Speed is an accomplished and effective attacking midfielder.  His inexplicable disillusionment and departure represent a tremendous loss to the club. 

"This miserable episode should not be casually attributed to some insatiable avarice on Gary's part: he was a true blue Evertonian.  Something made it impossible for him to stay at Goodison.  What that was, we may never really know."


Page last updated 14 July, 2016