Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

AARON RAMSEY will be guided by the cherished memory of Gary Speed ​​as Wales begins their first World Cup match since 1958.

The emotional star midfielder, 31, is fulfilling a dream of a lifetime when he takes the field for a poignant event against the USA at Ahmad Ben Ali Stadium on Monday.

Aaron Ramsey was probably most affected by the death of then Wales coach Gary Speed ​​11 years ago.

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Aaron Ramsey was probably most affected by the death of then Wales coach Gary Speed ​​11 years ago.1 credit
When Wales faced Estonia in Cardiff last year, the whole country remembered Gary Speed, a hero first as a player and then as a manager.

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When Wales faced Estonia in Cardiff last year, the whole country remembered Gary Speed, a hero first as a player and then as a manager.1 credit

It was a long 64-year wait for all of Wales against the backdrop of qualification setbacks to finally reach a global final.

But Ramsey, captain Gareth Bale and the old guard have been spared personal troubles to reach the two Euros and now the Holy Grail following the tragic death of former boss Speed ​​at age 42 in November 2011.

Rambo was perhaps the person most affected by Speed’s passing, as he was captain of Wales after being appointed by his hero.

Speed’s successor, Chris Coleman, replaced Ramsey as captain with Ashley Williams in October 2012, due to the heavy price he inflicted on himself.

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And as memories come to life on the eve of the first World Cup tournament, the 75-hatted star admits that Speed’s spirit will never leave his mind in Qatar.

In the BBC documentary Together Stronger, a tearful voice, Ramsey poignantly said: “With everything we do, Gary is always on our minds.

“I’m getting emotional because a lot has happened in the way of achieving that. I am very happy that I am living my dream.

“But qualifying for Brazil in 2014 was Gary’s dream and vision.

“One of the goals he set when he arrived was to qualify for the World Cup.

“If you look at where we are right now, you can see that there are Gary’s fingerprints all over it. He was the one who set things in motion for us and definitely prepared us for these experiences we had.

“Then we didn’t get it – being able to finally do that makes it even more emotional and special to us. That means everything.

“It will be on our minds forever and it will definitely be again before our first game on Monday.”

Taking over as Wales manager from John Toshack in December 2010, Speed ​​set the Dragons on the road to success.

However, in August 2011, they recorded 117th place, the lowest ever Fifa ranking.

But Ramsey, who told his childhood sweetheart, his wife Colleen, when he was 15, that he would “take Wales to the World Cup one day”, says he is completely convinced of Speed’s master plan.

Ramsey added: “Gary had a side that you would believe everything he had to say about him. He was a leader and convinced us all.

“I was really excited when he got the job. It was great for me, he gave me a big responsibility at a young age and he saw a lot of himself in me as we played in a similar position.

Former Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey is excited to finally play in a World Cup.

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Former Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey is excited to finally play in a World Cup.Credit: PA

“He was demanding on the pitch, but he was a very nice guy. He helped the players fulfill a big dream of ours.

“It was extraordinary how we got from where we are in such a short time. Anything was possible.”

But on Sunday, November 27, 2011, tragedy struck Wales when the shocking news of Speed’s death was heard.

Ramsey recalled, “I was in my living room and she just popped up on the TV. A few messages came in and I immediately called Chris Gunter to see if he had heard anything.

“I didn’t really believe it back then, I don’t think anyone believed it.
“It was a difficult time because at that time I was only thinking of him and his family, of his young men.

“We saw him a few weeks ago, he looked really happy.

“He ate a coconut on one of the players during one of the last training sessions. He showed that he still has class and can still play.

“It was shocking to receive this news. It affected not only me, but also the people of Wales and the football world.

Coleman rebuilt Wales by taking them to the Euro 2016 semi-finals in France – with Ramsey putting on a standout performance.

It was shocking to receive this news. It affected not only me, but also the people of Wales and the football world.

Aaron Ramsey

The former Arsenal star, who currently plays for Nice in Ligue 1, also played in Euro last summer and helped secure Robert Page’s place in Qatar with his playoff win against Ukraine in June.

Ramsey added: “It was huge. It was a huge dream and it came true. I remember falling to the ground after the game.

“It’s almost as if we’ve made a complete circle. We qualified for one Euro but this really made the most sense.

“We all had dreams. ‘Are we really going to get there?’ Did you think? But we kept our faith.”

Following the USA, Wales will face Iran and then have a final Group B clash with England on 29 November, beating Ramsey and Co in a late Euro 2016 win.

Ramsey recalled: “We scored early and it was a game where we wanted to keep the lead and continue.

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“We’re very close to doing that, but these things can happen.

“The truth is that we are a small country against the giants of world football. This team is humble, but we try to compete with the best. In recent years we have shown that we can do that.”