Robin van Persie has used his matchday programme notes to pay tribute to the Wales manager, Gary Speed, who died at the weekend.

"I was shocked to hear about Gary Speed’s death on Sunday," said the Arsenal captain.

"In my first couple of years here I played against him during his spell at Bolton; I remember him as a really fit, good player who could read the game very well and had done so much in the Premier League over a number of years.

"I didn’t know him personally, but he really came to my attention again when he made Aaron captain of Wales - that’s when I started to find out a bit more about him, having a couple of chats with Aaron and thinking what a brave and forward-thinking move it was to give a 20 year-old that responsibility.

"It shows you what kind of guy he was, and that he had some great ideas for the future of Welsh football. Two Dutch friends of mine, Michael Kuijpers and Raymond Verheijen, were his physio and fitness coach with Wales - they told me some great stories about how good Gary was with the players and how well admired he was.

"Looking at the newspapers, every single tribute was about his footballing life, creating a lovely picture of who he was and all that he achieved. It’s nice, because it ensures the younger generation get to know him properly and get a feel for everything he did.

"My deep sympathy goes to his family, friends and everyone who knew him."

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29 Nov 2011