PFA praise as Speed notches 500 appearances

December 8, 2006

Players' union boss Gordon Taylor has praised Gary Speed 'as one of our finest members' as the veteran prepares to celebrate a record 500th Premier League appearance.

The 37-year-old Bolton midfielder is due to reach the landmark tomorrow evening when West Ham visit the Reebok Stadium.

Speed's first appearance at this level came on August 15, 1992 when Leeds, the reigning champions from the old First Division, defeated Wimbledon 2-1 at Elland Road.

It has been a long and winding road with club and country - he went on to captain Wales - and there is no sign yet of him winding down as he was handed a new two-year deal last August.

Speed has also worn the colours of Everton and Newcastle during his time at the top.

'It is a great tribute to his fitness and his skill that Gary is set to reach the 500 landmark,' said Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association.

'You look at the job he has done for various clubs, and his country, and you have to admire him.

'He is one of our finest members.

'It is an exemplary record and deserves the warmest congratulations from everyone at the PFA and everyone in football.'

Bolton will need Speed at the top of his game as victories have been hard to come by in recent weeks.

After a bright start manager Sam Allardyce has seen his side pick up only four points from a possible 21 after a narrow defeat at Reading. The only bright spot was the home victory against Arsenal, which was followed four days later with a defeat by Chelsea.

Allardyce said: 'It is very disappointing the run we are in at the moment.

'There are some excuses for the players in terms of the physical demands of playing Arsenal and Chelsea and what they gave to try to beat those big clubs.

'But we are struggling at the moment to produce our best football.'

Full-back Ricardo Gardner could come into contention against the struggling Hammers as Tal Ben Haim is suspended.

Gardner has not started a league match for seven months after suffering a serious knee injury.