Sporting legends back #11speed charity at successful inaugural launch

The great and the good of the sporting world lent their support to a newly formed charity, which aims to support mental health charities across the UK. #11Speed is the brainchild of former Wales football kit-man and nutritionist Tony Quaglia from Llanelli. The inaugural event was held on Friday (Oct 13) at the Manor Park Country House in Clydach.

Mr Quaglia was a close friend of the legendary footballer Gary Speed who died in November 2011. Mr Quaglia said that the plan is to host events at the football clubs Gary Speed played at and raise a lot of money for those charities working on the front line in mental health.

Founder of #11speed Tony Quaglia

Footballing greats Bruce Grobbelaar and Neville Southall were the guest speakers with many players past and present from clubs across the UK in attendance. Both goalkeepers entertained the audience with their stories and held a Q&A alongside BBC’s Rob Phillips. Both emphasised the need to look after one another and more importantly to check on family and friends to make sure they are OK. One of the highlights was Bruce Grobbelaar reenacting his ‘Spaghetti Legs’ incident during the 1984 European Cup final against Roma at the Giallorossi’s Stadio Olimpico.

Bruce Grobbelaar performs Spaghetti Legs for the audience and his mate Neville Southall

Speaking at the event Mr Quaglia said that he has never forgotten the moment he found out his close friend Gary Speed had died. Mr Quaglia said: “There were no signs, I didn’t know anything about mental health. It was a complete shock. We hope that we can help others especially men to talk about mental health. We hope it will save lives.

Carol Speed made an emotional speech about her son Gary

“When Gary died I went over everything in my mind. How could this happen to a friend? Weeks before Gary died he was at my home in Llanelli. We had a good time as always. There were no signs of Gary being depressed or unhappy. As we have heard tonight from the guest speakers. You have to look after people, make sure they are alright. I think management in sport in particular can do a lot to help.”

The charity #11speed is fronted by Mr Quaglia, Andy Melville and Neville Southall. It has drawn the support of current and former Wales bosses Robert Page, Gemma Grainger and Chris Coleman as well as people like Robbie Savage, Vinny Jones, Clayton Blackmore, Kit Symons, Jeremy Charles, Lee Trundle, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Nigel Stevenson, Wyndham Evans, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, rugby player Nigel Davies, World Champion Jonny Clayton, actors Steffan Rhodri and Julian Rhys Jones among many others.

Carol Speed looking at some of the tributes

Possibly the most emotional moment of the evening was when Gary’s mother Carol Speed took to the stage to talk about her late son. She said: “We didn’t know Gary was struggling he hid it well I can only say how it effected our family. The pain and shock of losing a loved one this way is excruciating. The pain never leaves you.

“After nearly twelve years he is still my first thought when I wake up each morning. I don’t like my life without Gary I hope events like this will urge people to confide in someone. We were extremely proud of Gary and the person he became. Gary lived his life and lived his dream playing and managing his country.”

Mrs Speed received a standing ovation.

Dr Sharon McDonnell

Dr Sharon McDonnell of Suicide Bereavement UK also gave an incredibly powerful talk about her brother’s battle with mental health. Dr McDonnell who is  the Founder and Managing Director of Suicide Bereavement UK and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester has specialised in suicide bereavement research. She  said that following her brother’s suicide she decided to go to university where she studied for her PhD and now works within the field of mental health. She said it was so important for men in particular to talk about their emotions and any issues they were suffering from.

Health Minister Baroness Eluned Morgan MS launching #ipledge2talk at the event

Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS was also at the event and spoke about the need to support people and the launch of the Welsh Government initiative #Ipledge2talk. The Health Minister spoke about the impact on communities and hoped to link up the Welsh Government’s initiative #ipledge2talk with #11speed. She said she hoped men would speak up and not hide their feelings. The FAW has also agreed to promote the cause. There is a 111 press 2 service anyone in Wales can use.

There were donations of items to be auctioned including signed shirts, luxury holidays and music memorabilia donated by the likes of The Stereophonics and Ed Sheeran. Performing a wonderful set on the evening was former X Factor contestant Sherilyn Hamilton Shaw.

Singer Sherilyn Hamilton-Shaw

Comedian Lenny Dee provided the well balanced humour and the MC for the evening was BBC sports presenter Rob Phillips who managed to bring out the best in the two legendary goalkeepers Bruce Grobbelaar and Neville Southall.

A packed Manor Park Country House for the inaugural event #11speed

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