‘Devastated to hear the news that Ray Wilkins has passed away He was a great player and an even greater man. Full of kindness and humility, with impeccable manners at all times. He had respect and time for everyone and to me he was a mentor and a friend. I’m not sure they make them like Ray anymore, You will be sorely missed fella’. – Frank Lampard
‘Incredibly sad to wake up to the news that Ray has passed away. A man that i’ve always looked up to as United fan and a player, plus he wore our countries shirt with pride. You will be sadly missed Our thoughts are with your family and friends’. – David Beckham
‘Everybody associated with Chelsea Football Club is devastated to learn of the passing of our former player, captain and assistant coach, Ray Wilkins. Rest in peace, Ray, you will be dreadfully missed’. – Chelsea Football Club
‘Really sad news about my former coach Ray Wilkins. At the tender age of 15 he put his arm around me and helped me during my transition with the first team. My thoughts are with his family at his sad time, Rest in peace Ray’ – Nathaniel Chalobah
Above are just some of the touching heartfelt tributes of some of the players whose lives were touched by the late, great Ray Wilkins.
To hear the tributes, whether it be on the radio, Twitter or any other media outlet will tell you all you need to know, the measure of the man, the sort of human being that Ray Wilkins was.
I never knew Ray, nor did I meet him in any capacity, but having seen him play, supported my football club during his time as assistant manager and listened to him alongside Alan Brazil on the TalkSport breakfast show on the daily commute to work, his personality, his outlook on football, his outlook on life and his general manner of how he treated everyone in his presence, came across so easily.
The way in which he broadcasted, made every listener feel part of the show, it was as if Ray was sat in the passenger seat with you discussing the highlights of the previous nights football, he broadcasted how he played the game – with style, charisma and joy – he was a complete natural with a ball at his feet, in the company of his contemporaries, with a microphone in his hand and with being an all-round, decent, warm-hearted human being.
Ray Wilkins began his football career with the one club that was closet to his heart, Chelsea Football Club, which he joined as an apprentice in his early teens.
His talent was obvious and at the tender age of 17, Ray made his debut as a substitute against Norwich City at Stamford Bridge in a 3-0 home win.
Following relegation to the second division in 1975, and with the departure of many of the clubs established stars – many of whom featured in the 1970 FA Cup winning side, an 18-year-old Ray Wilkins was promoted to club captain, a privileged responsibility for someone so young, but like everything handed to him in his life, Ray took the role on head first and made the captaincy his own.
With a team of mainly young players, led by Wilkins, Chelsea gained promotion back to the First Division in 1976-77 and consolidated their place the following season.
In 1979 Chelsea were relegated once again, and to help with the financial burden that relegation brings, Ray Wilkins was sold for £825,000 to Manchester United – at the time it was the highest transfer fee received for a Chelsea player.
Again, being the player that he was, Wilkins shined at Old Trafford, and alongside friend and fellow England international Bryan Robson, they formed a formidable midfield and led Manchester United back to some of their former glories, resulting in an FA Cup win over Brighton Hove Albion at Wembley in 1983, with Ray Wilkins scoring in the replay, the goal is still one of the greatest ever scored in an FA Cup Final.
Unfairly at Manchester United, manager Ron Atkinson nicknamed him ‘The Crab’ for his so called style of passing the ball sideways and keeping possession, how the game and the footballer was viewed back in the 1980’s is a world away from the modern game of today, and like many of the players from that era Ray played in – Glenn Hoddle in particular – their range of passing, ability to keep possession and general all-round talent were inexplicably undervalued, perhaps players born in the wrong era – light years ahead of their time – a phrase only used to describe the absolute geniuses.
His talents were certainly not undervalued on the continent – and after being voted Manchester United’s Player of the Year in 1983-84, AC Milan came calling.
With fellow Englishman Mark Hateley, Wilkins helped restore the Rossenari to victory over city rivals Inter and helped AC Milan to fifth in the table following their re-emergence to Serie A.
The following season Ray Wilkins was a significant player in the heart of AC Milan’s midfield, playing 29 times, scoring two goals. In Wilkins’ final season in Italy in 1986/87, he began to fall out of the first team picture with the club now owned by Silvio Berlusconi and with the Italian’s purchasing Roberto Donadoni, with Wilkins in the side, the club again finished fifth with the double over Inter thrown in for good measure.
Before leaving for Rangers, an Italian news publication eulogised Wilkins as a ‘serious and meticulous professional who was immediately appreciated for his long and precise passes’.
Following a successful spell with Rangers, Wilkins found himself back in London, this time at Queens Park Rangers, for whom he was a regular from 1989 to 1994. Wilkins rejoined QPR as player-manager following a spell at Crystal Palace.
As an England international, Wilkins is the fourteenth highest cap holder with 84, captaining his country on ten occasions, perhaps his most famous appearance for the Three Lions saw him score one of his most iconic goals.
Having helped England qualify for their first tournament in a decade for the European Championships of 1980, England faced Belgium. Wilkins ran the show, and in one move lobbed the ball over three on-rushing Belgium defenders, taking out the offside trap – before unleashing a lovely chip over the oncoming goalkeeper. Despite the goal, England still fell short at the group stage.
A wonderful career for a wonderful man, yes there were low points like every footballer had – most notably the sending off against Morocco in the World Cup in 1986, but this red card came about after Wilkins was incensed that the treatment of the England players, particularly Bryan Robson, was going unpunished by the referee, even when the red mist descended, it was through thinking of others, for the team, for the cause.
Everyone will have their own particular memory of Ray Wilkins, their own story, their own tale, and no doubt through every memory, story and tale, it will be filled with happiness, laughter and it would have left a lasting feeling.
My particular memories will be in that wonderful double season of in 2010, the uplifting press conferences concerning Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard, the smile that lit up Stamford Bridge during the trophy parade upon winning the Premier League trophy.
Also his radio broadcasts on TalkSport, his philosophy on football and how he approached the game and life, in general, will leave a mark for the better.
Heaven has sadly gained an angel, but if his time on earth is anything to go by, heaven is a better place now that Ray Wilkins has his place there.
Every life you touched is that much better for the experience.
Thank you for the memories, Butch.
Rest In Peace fella.