Gareth Bale says he hopes to honour the death of Wales manager Gary Speed by ensuring the national side continue to grow and make progress in the same way as they did under the former Leeds and Bolton midfielder.
Speed was tragically found dead early on Sunday morning having hanged himself at his home on the outskirts of Cheshire, prompting a deluge of tributes from players, former team-mates, colleagues and fans alike.
Speed had been able to guide Wales to as high as 45 in the FIFA world ranking’s having taken up the reigns in September 2010, a marked improvement from the 117th they were ranked at in August following their Euro 2012 qualifier defeat against England.
Wins against Montenegro, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Norway in their last five games had given rise to hopes that Speed, with the likes of Bale and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey leading the way, could guide Wales to qualification for a major tournament for the first time since 1976 when qualification for the 2014 World Cup gets underway in 2013.
Now Bale has admitted he is struggling to come to terms with the loss of the 42-year-old, and says the future looks bright for Welsh football thanks to the efforts of Speed.
"It was a massive shock, I don't think anybody ever thought anything like this would happen," Bale told Tottenham's website. "Everyone is devastated and it is a massive loss to everyone in football.
"It is a tragedy, everyone still can't get their head around it and all our condolences go out to his family and his kids. It is a hard time."
He added: "We were on the up, he changed the way we play and the whole mentality of our game. It is a massive loss, but we will try and carry on the best we can in his honour."
Wales’ next fixture is a friendly against an as yet unnamed opponent on the 29th February next year. Police announced they would open an inquest into Speed’s death at Warrington Coroner's Court on Tuesday at 3pm.