God speed you. Black and white Emperor.
Pure breath of granite hewed from the ground of Flintshire
where dragons fly and the hills sigh for the business of dreaming.
You were already formed as a warrior
As the Merlin alchemists mixed your being together
In the days before the men of Harlech began to sing your name
when your promise whirled and eddied from the valleys,
tendrils of smoke from the miners’ fires gathered
and formed on the terraces of Leeds, Everton, Newcastle and Bolton
where working men admired the chiselled stare, the rapier pass and the Aquila dribble
A club man that darted, never clubbed.
You served in the football trenches with McAllister, Batty and Strachan,
going over the top with them,
comrades in no man’s land, where even the enemy ceased firing to admire you.
You were the midfield General, the Captain and Sergeant of armbands
You played them at your own game
You did not go gently into the night
You were the black on the white, the raven hair and pithead eyes burning coals on the turf.
You saw the whites of their eyes and flayed them with black and white stripes.
And yet, the gentle cleft of your jaw, the downhill saunter of your nose,
were a softer frame for the imperial neck, a pedestal, a clenched life raised in victory,
the full motion slide on grass, cutting your legend into the soil,
a fighter blooding his territory with over 500 battle cries.
Many were victories, but you couldn’t win them all.
Your fame will grow with your passing.
When your foe faced you, you vanquished him.
But when he came to live within, you vanished.
God Speed you. The Emperor who did not fade to grey.
Roy Stannard. 30th November 2011 (for Gary Speed 8.9.69 – 27.11.11)