Richard Scudamore, Premier League Chief Executive, said: "This is truly tragic news and the thoughts of all of those associated with the Premier League are with Gary's family and friends.

"Gary was a wonderful ambassador for our League, and indeed all of football, but more than that he was a decent man widely respected throughout the game and beyond.

"Gary will go down in history as one of our iconic players, he was a stand out professional of the modern game and I'm sure all football fans across Britain will be deeply saddened at his untimely passing."

Premier League record

The former Newcastle United midfielder made the third highest number of Premier League appearances.

The 42-year-old, who also played for Leeds United, Everton, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United, was remembered with a minute's applause before the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Aston Villa.

Speed became the first player to make 500 Premier League appearances when he featured in Bolton's 4-0 win over West Ham United and he held the record of most Premier League appearances with 535 until 2009 when veteran goalkeeper David James overtook him.

He scored 81 Premier League goals and won 85 caps for Wales in a 14-year international career.

He retired from playing in 2010 before embarking on his first managerial role with Sheffield United. He took over as manager of Wales in December 2010 and had lifted their fortunes, guiding them the three successive victories in his final matches in charge.

Speed, who was awarded the MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for his services to football, leaves a wife and two children.