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Ray Wilkins: Former England captain dies aged 61

Wilkins’ ‘magnificent’ FA Cup final goal for Man Utd

Former England and Chelsea midfielder Ray Wilkins has died in hospital at the age of 61.

Wilkins, who also played for Manchester United, AC Milan, Rangers and QPR, was being treated at St George’s Hospital in London following cardiac arrest.

His family thanked “Ray’s friends, colleagues and members of the public” for the many messages of goodwill.

Chelsea said they were “devastated to learn of the passing of our former player, captain and assistant coach”.

The club added: “Rest in peace, Ray, you will be dreadfully missed.”

Wilkins’ family said: “It is with great sadness we announce that Raymond Colin Wilkins passed away this morning.

“Ray leaves behind his loving wife, Jackie, daughter Jade, son Ross, and his beautiful grandchildren, Oliver, Frankie, Ava, Freddie, Jake and Archie.

“We are asking for privacy at this very difficult time.”

Wilkins’ last club job was as assistant manager of Aston Villa in 2015

Wilkins had been working as a TV and radio pundit.

As a player, he won the FA Cup with Manchester United in 1983 and the Scottish league title with Rangers in 1989.

He made 84 appearances for England and captained his country 10 times.

Wilkins had spells as manager of QPR, Fulham and the Jordan national team.

He was also Chelsea assistant coach from 1998-2000 and then 2008 until 2010, when he worked alongside Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.

Ray Wilkins’ playing career
Chelsea Crystal Palace
Manchester United Wycombe Wanderers
AC Milan Hibernian
Paris St-Germain Millwall
Rangers Leyton Orient
QPR

Analysis

BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty

Wilkins’ career was characterised by maturity and dignity, which was recognised early in his time at Chelsea, where he made his debut as a 17-year-old in October 1973 before being awarded the captaincy at just 18 by then manager Eddie McCreadie.

He went on to make his England debut in the Bicentennial Tournament against Italy in New York City in May 1976 and had a burgeoning reputation as one of the young pin-up boys of English football, as well as one of its most promising talents.

Wilkins led a group of emerging Chelsea youngsters back into the top flight, but once they were relegated again it became inevitable that top-flight clubs would pounce. So it proved as he signed for Manchester United in August 1979.

He acquired an unfair reputation for a conservative playing style, with one cruel nickname of ‘The Crab’ mocking his supposed preference for sideways passes.

Those who actually played with Wilkins thought differently and spoke of an elegant, visionary midfield player and leader whose abilities were underrated, as evidenced by the calibre of clubs who were always keen to secure his services.

READ MORE: Farewell to a footballing nomad and an ‘absolute gentleman’

‘He lived for and loved football’ – reaction

Former Manchester United team-mate Mickey Thomas on BBC Radio Wales: “He was a great guy, one unbelievable man. You could never dislike Ray Wilkins, no matter what he said, he had that charisma and presence about him.

“He became an instant star at Chelsea and when he went to Old Trafford in a big money move there was a lot of pressure on him. He found it difficult initially but he won the fans over and became a legend there – he became a legend wherever he played.

“In today’s game, money couldn’t buy him – he was a gifted individual, such a talented footballer.”

Tributes were also paid to Wilkins on social media by clubs, players and team-mates:

Ex-Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson: “Was only two weeks ago I was with Ray in Brighton…Feel Empty-Much love to all the Famiy… Life is Cruel..RIP BUD……”

Former AC Milan defender Franco Baresi: “In these moments you never know what to say, but it was an honor to have you as a companion, you were special, a gentleman on the field and out. Thank you Ray Wilkins RIP.”

Ex-England striker Gary Lineker: “Deeply saddened to hear that Ray Wilkins has passed away. A wonderful footballer and a delightful man. It was a pleasure to have played alongside him with England. No teammate was more helpful and supportive. I’ll be forever grateful. Thoughts are with his family. #RIPRay.”

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel: “Sad and chocked to hear of the passing of Ray Wilkins. A true football person with a totally underestimated contribution to our sport. One of the best I’ve seen. My thought are with his family. Rest in peace.”

Ex-England winger Chris Waddle: “So sorry to hear about Ray Wilkins a great player and a true gentleman RIP.”

Former England and Newcastle striker Alan Shearer: “So sad to hear the news about Ray Wilkins. He lived for and loved football. I was lucky enough to have worked with him and he was always a true gentleman. He will be sorely missed by so many. #RIPRay.”

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish: “So upset to hear the news of Ray Wilkins. RIP Ray. Even when Ray left Villa, he was always ringing me offering advice and telling me what I could do to improve. A true gentleman and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”

Former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand: “RIP Ray Wilkins. Always so humble & softly spoken whenever I saw him. Genuine lovely guy. Watched him live at Loftus Road many times for QPR. What a great passer & teacher of the game for any young kids who watched him.”

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