As Wales prepare to celebrate a very special sporting day, on Saturday, my mind turns back to a dark November afternoon when I turned on the radio to hear the shattering and unbelievable news that Gary Speed had died.
The shock and dismay felt by so many people on 27 November 2011, was only worsened by the fact that he had taken his own life.
Football seemed an insignificant folly in the face of a young mans death, a popular and charismatic person who appeared to have it all, had been taken from us.
Football, and Welsh football was stunned, and through it all a new national manager had to be installed .
To take the job in those circumstances takes a special kind of person, one of Gary’s best friends, and fellow international colleague proved to be such a man.
Chris Coleman grieving in his own right, took on the role which he has handled with great dignity and sensitivity from day one, as the team grieved and the fans grieved Chris Coleman stood strong and guided everyone through the turbulent waters
When results didn’t go his was he made no excuses, of which their were many, he retained his dignity and the team united and continued to grow with him and around him.
The squad have all been through such a lot together, experiences that put the game of football into perspective, but which have bonded this group of players and created a spirit of strength and unity within the squad that transcends sport.
Gary sowed the seeds of this wonderful success, his great friend Chris continued the legacy and added an extra dimension to it.
Next Saturday in Bordeaux our tears will be of joy for reaching the finals of Euro 2016 ,but also of sadness for the tragic loss that set us all on this remarkable journey.
Wales motto “Together Stronger” could not be more apt.