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The Speed Cycle: Meet The Riders

This weekend, 22 football fans will honour the memory of former Everton captain Gary Speed by cycling 240 miles from Newcastle United’s St James’ Park to Goodison Park to raise money for Everton in the Community’s mental health campaign, ‘The People’s Place’.

The Speed Cycle will visit the home grounds of Gary’s former clubs – with stop-offs at Leeds United, Sheffield United and Bolton Wanderers. The aim is to hit a £65,000 fundraising target – £1,000 for each of the 65 appearances Speed made for boyhood club Everton.

Below, the cyclists taking on the gruelling challenge explain why they were so eager to get involved, and reveal their memories of Gary…

Name: Andrew Owens
Age: 44
Town/City: Litherland, Liverpool

AndyOwensSpeedCycle

Why did you want to get involved?

Firstly, I’m an Evertonian and a Season Ticket holder and secondly, I’m a really keen cyclist. Combining the two for such a great cause sounded like the perfect way to spend the weekend. I did something similar with my cycling club Sefton Velo in 2016 and we cycled coast to coast from Scarborough to Liverpool in a day, covering a total of 162 miles and collectively raising £10,000 for Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice.

I’ve cycled over 2,000 miles this year in preparation for this challenge. I think I’m ready!

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I’ve got lots of great memories of watching Gary Speed play, but his hat-trick in the 7-1 win against Southampton has to be the highlight. I was there that day to witness his man of the match performance!


Name: Andy Watt
Age: 55
Town/City: Maidenhead

AndyWattspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
Mental health is a cause close to home as a close uncle took his own life and depression has affected other people in my family. I have been training daily for this challenge. I started cycling in 2010 when I trained for the Three Peak Challenge, which I completed in 23.5 hours, raising £8,000 for deafblind charities.

My family and I also run our own charity, the Molly Watt Trust, which was set up to raise awareness of Usher Syndrome, a condition which affects hearing and sight and causes difficulty with mobility and communication.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
He was a great player, especially when he played for the Toffees. He always seemed like a very humble man, too.


Name: Iain Bellis
Age: 51
Town/City: Huyton

Bellisspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
I work with children and I know only too well the importance of people needing to talk to someone. I have always been a keen cyclist and I cycle to work whenever I can. I have done lots of charity cycling events over the years and I can’t wait to get started on his one and raise as much money as I can for this brilliant cause. I am a member of Liverpool Mercury Cycling Club and I am also a Season Ticket Holder in the Main Stand.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I was absolutely chuffed when we signed Gary Speed, a young attacking midfielder who was always likely to get a goal. I was gutted when we went off to Newcastle. He always came across as a really nice lad and, of course, he was a blue, which always endears players to Everton fans.



Name: John Murphy
Age: 70
Town/City: Lives in Warwick but was born in Liverpool

Murphyspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
I have been an Everton fan for more than 60 years and was a Season Ticket Holder from 1990 until 2003. I have been cycling with the Kenilworth Wheelers for four years and have completed a number of charity rides, raising money for a range of organisations. I have my own personal reasons for doing The Speed Cycle; it is enough to say that I understand the impact mental health issues can have on your life.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I watched Gary Speed through his time with Everton and won a few bob putting him down for the first goal with him being our regular penalty taker!


Name: John Palin
Age: 55
Town/City: Liverpool

Why did you want to get involved?

I was asked to be one of the support cyclists on The Speed Cycle and I jumped at the opportunity to do something to hopefully help those who need somewhere to turn in their hour of need. I’ve been averaging 170 miles a week in my training and have rode over 70 hills in preparation.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?

I always looked at Gary as someone who ‘had it all’. His story is an example that mental health issues can affect anyone and why raising these funds for The People’s Place is so important.


Name: Tasha Roks
Age: 32
Town/City: Liverpool

 

TashaRoksspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
I got involved with The Speed Cycle because I would like to do my bit for the city and I feel we are lacking mental health facilities. I love cycling and doing long distance tours can be challenging but, with the help of the team, we will be able to achieve this.

My idea behind this is that, with a little help and support, we can offer someone else something we may never have thought possible. I am a Season Ticket holder and I’ve done a bit of training, including cycling to Spurs away on my own at the end of the season to get my training miles up!

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I can just about remember when I was 10 years old and he scored a hat-trick against Southampton in a 7-1 win.


Name: Phil O’Neill
Age: 49
Town/City: Originally from Liverpool but now lives in Prenton, Wirral

PhilONeillspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
I decided to sign up for the challenge because it involves two of my great loves, cycling and Everton. Obviously mental health is an issue that affects us all. I think that it is still a taboo subject in certain quarters, so the more we can do to get people talking about it, the better.

It makes me so proud to see what my club Everton are doing in this area. Hopefully we can lead the way for other clubs to follow. I am a lifelong Everton fan who started going with my dad and three of my brothers in 1977. I have a Season Ticket in the Lower Bullens and sit with my son Jude and daughter Aisha.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I remember when Gary signed, thinking how fantastic it was to have such an inspirational footballer playing for us who was a true blue. Even to this day, I still am so shocked and saddened by his passing. Hopefully, our ride can help others who may be in a similar place to where Gary was. If we can help even one person, it will have been a worthwhile exercise.


Ryan

Name: Ryan Powell
Age: 27
Town/City: Liverpool

Why did you want to get involved?

I have a passion for raising awareness about The People’s Place and mental health in general. Any part I can play in helping to open up the conversation around mental health is great. I’ve worked at Everton for 11 years on the grounds team and I am looking forward to taking part in The Speed Cycle with some of my colleagues.

What do you remember about Gary Speed?
His debut against Newcastle, scoring with a Duncan Ferguson set-up!



Name: Ronnie Cowen
Age: 49
Town/City: Litherland

RonnieCowenspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
It was a great honour to be asked to support The Speed Cycle considering I am the only Liverpool supporter! It shows mental health has no club colours; it affects all walks of life and has no label. For this weekend, we will all be one team supporting each other for this epic event.

This is the second large cycle event I have taken part in, the first being coast to coast with Sefton Velo Cycling Club to raise money for Zoe’s Place. I have covered 2000 miles training for this event and lost nearly two stone. Everton in the Community have given me the drive to complete The Speed Cycle and shown me that with support anything is possible. I am taking part with two other Sefton Velo members and we support each other daily with messages and good luck.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
Derby day in 1996. He scored to level the Merseyside derby at 1-1 and it broke my heart!



Name: Ryan O’Hanlon
Age: 37
Town/City: West Derby

RyanOHanlonspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved? 
I’ve been a volunteer for Everton in the Community since March 2018 and I’ve been a part of and witnessed the great work that it does. When the People’s Place project was explained to me I could see the benefit it will be to the community and I wanted to be part of making that a reality as quickly as possible.

It’ll be really hard but it will be worth it. I’ve done cycle challenges across Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia but this will be by far the hardest. Knowing there’ll be so much support for us along the way will be what gets me through.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
He was a great player and you could see how much playing for Everton meant to him. The Everton team he played in had so much potential and it was sad that they couldn’t stay together. I was gutted when he left but so pleased for him when he became manager of Wales. It was so unfortunate that his life and career was cut so short.


Name: Simon Porter
Age: 49
Town/City: Litherland

SimonPorterspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved? 
My friend Andrew Owens was involved, and I’ve known Tony McQuade, who is also participating in the challenge, for years via the Mercury Cycling Club. When I found the ride was for mental health it struck a chord as two former work colleagues have ended their own lives in recent years and I’ve seen the devastating consequences this has had on their families and closest friends.

If there can be somewhere that people can turn to, get help and talk to someone then maybe lives and devastated families can be saved. I did a coast to coast ride three years ago where we covered 165 miles in a day and raised money for Zoe’s Place. The year before that, I did the first Velothon in Wales for Bloodwise, the leukaemia charity. My training for The Speed Cycle has involved a few miles, a few hills and a few beers – proper training with the guys!

What are your memories of Gary Speed? 
He was a great player for Everton with the big names of the 90s. Big Nev in goal, Big Dunc causing mayhem and the Welsh wonderboy heading in against the Reds at Anfield. Great memories!


Name: Lee Silk
Age: 37
Town/City: Bootle

Why did you want to get involved?
I was given Gary’s book for Christmas and I’d finished reading it before New Year. I wasn’t sure whether to sign up or not as I hadn’t been on my bike for a few months but as soon as I finished the book I knew I wanted to do it. I needed some motivation to get back out on the road and, without a goal, I find it easy not to train. Since I signed up in February I’ve cycled over a thousand miles up all the hills I know.

I find cycling is a good way to switch off from everything that’s going on and a good way to clear my mind. I’ve changed all the bits of red on my bike to blue and got the Everton crest on the stem of my bike. I want to keep up the cycling training once the ride has finished so will be looking to book in another long ride for the winter and joining the local cycle club I’ve been training with, Liverpool Mercury. I’ve worked for Everton for almost 20 seasons. I used to work full-time with the IT department. I now work at Liverpool ONE but have stayed on part-time in various roles. I’m now the matchday DJ and get to play the siren and Z Cars!

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I remember him scoring a hat-trick against Southampton in one of my first games as a Season Ticket holder. He scored a great header in the derby the same year, I don’t think he got enough credit for his heading ability. He wasn’t that big but timed his runs to perfection. He was a boyhood Evertonian who lived the dream playing for us – you could tell when he scored what it meant for him. I was gutted when he left.


Name: Ian Maclure
Age: 43
Town/City: Taif, Saudi Arabia

Why did you want to get involved?
Mental health is something I suffer with but I manage it with support. To be able to take part in and raise funds for a purpose-built facility was a no-brainer; anything that can help someone who believes there is no-one to help can only be a good thing. I’m a lifelong Evertonian and enjoy a challenge, as long as the weather is kinder to us than a length of Norway ride I did last year then I’ll be happy.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?

My standout memory of Gary Speed is when he left and joined Newcastle; I was gutted. He was a great professional and put his all in.


Name: John Hughes
Age: 55
Town/City: Southport

JohnHughesspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
As soon as Carena Duffy, Everton in the Community’s fundraising manager, told me about The Speed Cycle, I said ‘I’m in, just let me know when’. I took part in the Sunderland challenge and Sligo to Goodison in 2017 so, being a veteran, I couldn’t miss this one.

I am an Everton Season Ticket holder in the Park End and go to all games, including pre-season. My training has been limited but I feel okay and I am looking forward to the challenge.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I always remember Gary’s goal against Liverpool in 1996. I always liked him as a player, he served us well.


Name: John Geoghegan
Name: 55
Town/City: Wigan

JohnGeogheganspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
The Speed Cycle is for a great cause and it is an honour to do my part in helping support those people who live with mental illness. I am an Everton employee and work in the grounds team at USM Finch Farm. I believe we should get involved in these projects and show our support to Everton in the Community as often as we can.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
Gary was a football fans’ footballer; hard-working and a great role model.


Name: Mark Rogers
Age: 48
Town/City: Kirkby

MarkRogersspeedcycle

Why did you want to get involved?
I’m a lifelong Evertonian who has worked for the Club for the past 14 years and have been the head groundsman at USM Finch Farm for the past two-and-a-half years. I wanted to take part in The Speed Cycle and do something so far out of my comfort zone that people around me who know me would sit up and take notice as to why I was doing it, and hopefully do my bit to raise some awareness of mental health in men.

Just the fact we’ve got people talking is a step in the right direction and I think it’s important that myself and the other people in my team are taking part to represent Everton, as Gary’s club, and Finch Farm. Training for me has meant getting on a racing bike for the first time since I was a teenager and discovering the joys of long rides and busy roads. It’s seen me increase the leg work and cardio I do in the gym but I feel the biggest challenge will be the mental test, which is quite fitting.

What are your memories of Gary Speed?
I always felt that being the same age as Gary gave me a connection to him – for my friends and I he was living our dream. From being the boyhood Evertonian who used to deliver Kevin Ratcliffe’s papers to being the captain of the club he loved. I stood on the terraces and got real joy and a sense of pride from seeing him run out in the royal blue at Goodison and smashing the ball into the back of the net.

It really affected me when he died because I just didn’t get it. Here was someone who seemingly had everything; he’d achieved all my dreams and I was delighted for him. If only he’d spoken to someone about the way he was feeling and what was going on behind that smile and confident persona, it just might have changed something for him. It shows how important projects like The People’s Place – and giving people somewhere to turn – are.

Want to get involved?

If you think that you can help in anyway, either personally or through your business, then please get in touch.