There are times in life when rivalries are set aside and you can have nothing but respect for even your most hated of rivals.

In my lifetime, there have been two instances of tragedy overcoming football fan divide that really stand out – both of which involve the “War of the Roses” rivalry between Manchester United and Leeds.

The first was eleven years ago following the murders of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, when fans of clubs from across the country came to Elland Road to lay tribute to their memory.

I too was in Turkey for that game against Galatasaray, and when I returned home we went via the Billy Bremner statue to lay a Leeds United shirt we’d scrawled our own messages of condolence on.

It was there that I met a Manchester United fan laying flowers on behalf of his fellow supporters. He was understandably nervous entering enemy territory, fearing he may be an outlet for the Leeds United fans’ anger, but the rivalry between the two sides seemed incredibly petty in light of the tragedy we were there to mourn.

It was one of those ‘some things are bigger than football’ moments that always seem to catch you by surprise, and tonight, I caught news of another one.

Despite the fact Gary Speed tributes have taken place up and down the country, I never really considered Manchester United would hold their own minutes applause. But they did, and credit to the club for doing so – it’s nice to see the football world honouring such an inspirational figure, regardless of his personal allegiances.

But that wasn’t the part that shocked me. As deeply encoded into my DNA as the rivalry with Manchester United may be, I’m not at all surprised to hear they honoured the minutes applause. What surprised me was that the fans went above and beyond that, chanting “there’s only one Gary Speed” from the terraces.

My unreserved respect goes out to the Manchester United fans that took part in that chant tonight, and to all the football fans – regardless of club – that have stood united to mourn the loss of one of football’s true heroes.

As one Twitter user put it, “Gary Speed – played for Everton, Liverpool fans liked him. Played for Leeds, Manchester United fans liked him. Says it all.”

Of all the condolence messages I’ve read, nothing sums up the reaction we’ve seen quite like that tweet – the response has been truly heart-warming and I’ve never been prouder to be a small part of the footballing community.

  • bauldjay

    United we all stand for Gary

    • Tare10

      How about these teen age boys, how can they coup in their future lives? Myself, as a father of 16 -year old boy I am just shattered of thinking of it? My heart is with Gary’s family and especially the boys.

      Tare

  • leedsunitedvyt

    shocked me the amount of grief felt all over the country for ,,speedo,,rivalry in football,s part of the culture this proves it is culture and not as some fink a way of life.

  • MPR

    It was big of them to do this tonight and I hope that the next time that one of their heroes dies we can remember this and behave in similar fashion.

  • MPR

    It was very good of them and I hope that the next time one of their heroes dies we can be just as big in recognising that some things are more important than football. Shankly was wrong, it isn’t more important than life and death and the sadness felt by everyone at Speedo’s passing shows that perhaps their is hope for football fans after all.

  • MPR

    It was very good of them and I hope that the next time one of their heroes dies we can be just as big in recognising that some things are more important than football. Shankly was wrong, it isn’t more important than life and death and the sadness felt by everyone at Speedo’s passing shows that perhaps thre is hope for us football fans after all

  • EYLEEDS

    I’ve admired lots of players but only ever had two footballing heroes; Gary Speed and Lucas Radebe.
    Speedo’s death seems to have shocked and saddened everyone in football and I am grateful to the Man U fans for their tremendous gesture. I’m still over the moon that Palace beat them but that is different and deep down we love to hate each other.
    The emotion on Saturday at Elland Road will be unbelievable and I’m sure we will give Gary a deserving send off.

  • Matthew

    Still shocked by what happened to Speed, he would of made a great manager for us in the future after the Grayson and Bates era is over.

  • JCRed

    I’m a Man United fan and was at the game last night, I don’t know of anyone who could say a bad thing about Speedo. Great article and 99% of fans from both clubs agree with everything you’ve said. RIP Speedo

  • number1inyorkshire

    100% right and well done to MANUs fans (well done to place too)lol

    i know of noone who has said a bad word about speed .yet he took his life ,it makes no sense at all

    tragic in the extreme

    once again well done manu fans hats off to ya

    • number1inyorkshire

      that should say well done palace

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    Shane Barry

    Gary Speed true hero and great player.

  • SpeedoRIP

    Fair play to the Man United fans – I hope we learn from this as a club : its not so long ago that we failed to honour the minutes silence to George Best in the spirit we should have