By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Shola Ameobi and Alan Pardew have joined their Newcastle United colleagues in paying tribute to former midfielder Gary Speed, who has died aged 42.
The Welsh national manager was the first player to make 500 Premier League appearances, and as well as playing for Newcastle, also took in spells at Leeds, Everton, Bolton and Sheffield United, before moving into management.
Ameobi came through the ranks on Tyneside to play alongside Speed in the famous black and white stripes, and told nufc.co.uk that the Welsh international was a role model to him as a youngster.
"Gary was a really great guy who joined the club the year before I made my debut," he said.
"I looked up to likes of Gary and Alan Shearer, and he was always there for me and the rest of the young lads, taking time to talk to us at training and pass on little tips that helped you improve as a player. Not everyone would do that so it just goes to show what a class act he was.
"He taught me so much, not just on the field, but how to handle yourself off the pitch too. I wish his family all the very best at this terribly sad time."
Magpies boss Pardew also spoke about the 42-year-old, who had followed up an illustrious playing career with the early signs of a very promising future in management.
"This is one of the saddest days in football, when we hear a colleague as respected as Gary is tragically no longer with us," said Pardew.
"A top class international player whose seamless move into national team management tells us everything you need to know about him. He had great class on and off the pitch, he was a man of true character that so many people looked up to.
"It is so sad and tonight my thoughts are of course with his family."