Gary Speed

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Alan Pardew has revealed how the death of former player Gary Speed has affected Newcastle's preparations for Saturday's home game with Chelsea.

Speed will be remembered before kick-off, and Pardew admitted the mood around the training ground has been "heavy" following his shock passing at the age of just 42.

But he hopes his players can put on a performance that the one-time United captain would be proud of when the first whistle blows at 12.45pm - by which time an emotional tribute will have been paid by the sell-out crowd.

Pardew said: "He was a great player here and a captain of this Club. He has been a big loss to us this week.

"The training ground has been heavy, particularly the first two days, because we had a lot of staff and players who were remembering him not only as a great player but also as a great person.

"It has been a difficult week, but hopefully we can prepare ourselves mentally for the game."

All week, supporters have been leaving messages, shirts and flowers at the stadium and on Saturday fans in the East Stand will hold up cards to make up a number 11 - Speed's shirt number at the club - before Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones will lead the crowd in a rendition of Bread of Heaven.

There will also be a minute's applause, while Speed is on the front cover of the matchday programme, and featured heavily inside.

Pardew added: "We have all been very involved to make sure that we pay the tribute in the right manner, and I think the Club have stepped in the right way to do that.

"Hopefully it will be accepted and responded to well by the fans here who love Gary Speed.

"They will want to show their affection for him, and hopefully we will give them the right platform and atmosphere for that to take place.

"We will be doing as much as we can to pay our respects to him and his family, who are the most important people now."