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 man’s death, a popular and charismatic person who on the face of it appeared to have it all, had been taken from us.
Football, and particularly Welsh football was stunned, and somehow 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 a fellow international colleague proved to be such a man.
Chris Coleman grieving in his own right, took on the role which he has handled from day one with dignity and sensitivity, as the team grieved along with the fans, Chris Coleman stood strong and guided everyone through turbulent waters
When results didn’t go his way there were no excuses, despite the fact their were many, he retained his dignity as 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 ultimately ones which have bonded this group of players creating a spirit, a strength and unity within the squad that transcends sport.
Gary sowed the seeds of this wonderful success, his great friend Chris has continued the legacy and added an extra dimension to it.
Next Saturday in Bordeaux our tears will be ones of joy at reaching the finals of Euro 2016 ,but also one’s of sadness for the tragic loss that set us all on this remarkable journey.
Wales motto “Together Stronger” could not be more apt.