News shattered the football world today that former English international Ray Wilkins has passed away at the age of 61.
Wilkins will be remembered in Aston Villa circles as a coach under Tim Sherwood in the 2015 campaign. But, Wilkins had quite the amazing career when you break it down. Loved and revered by teammates and all sorts of people around the football universe, there have already been a multitude of well wishes to the Wilkins family on social media and at stadiums alike.
Wilkins began his professional playing career at Chelsea where he won Player Of The Year honours in 1976 and 1977. ‘Butch’, as he was affectionately nicknamed, saw a move to Manchester United in 1979 after Chelsea were relegated. Wilkins would then to go on to lift the FA Cup trophy with United in 1983 after a nervy contest against Brighton & Hove Albion at Wembley Stadium.
In the summer of 1984, AC Milan came calling for Wilkins during a transitional time for the Serie A side. Wilkins would go on to score 3 goals in 105 appearances for Milan before a short-lived spell at Paris Saint-Germain.
Wilkins would find himself in Scotland in 1987 playing under Graeme Souness of Liverpool fame. While Wilkins’ time at Rangers only lasted two years, it did not come with a bit of legendary prowess. Wilkins would feature 100 times in two seasons for the Light Blues, and scored a right-footed volley into the top corner in the Old Firm Derby against Celtic in August of 1988.
Wilkins would return to England in 1989, finding himself at Queens Park Rangers. At 33 years of age, many pundits had the opinion that Wilkins didn’t have much left in him as a footballer, but those pundits were found out to be grossly mistaken. Wilkins would go on to feature 207 times at QPR, scoring ten goals on the way. With the emergence of young stars at QPR in the early 90’s such as Les Ferdinand and Andy Sinton, Wilkins was not only coming back into great form but was also mentoring these young starlets. Even at the age of 34, there were rumours that he may just get a recall in the England squad if he kept his run of form up. Ultimately, that did not happen and Wilkins left QPR for an injury riddled time at Crystal Palace, before returning to Queens Park Rangers as a player-coach. QPR would wind up selling Les Ferdinand on Wilkins return and The R’s would see themselves relegated in the 1995/1996 campaign. Wilkins would go on to continue coaching QPR for the first month after their relegation before being dismissed of his duties. Mr. Wilkins set a Queens Park Rangers record oldest ever outfield player on September 1st 1996, aged 39 years and 352 days.
With a journeyman career winding down, Wilkins still had that feeling of wanting to play the game that he loved so much. There were short lived spells at clubs Wycombe Wanderers, Hibernian, Millwall and Leyton Orient. After retiring from the game that gave him so much over his lifetime, Wilkins was hired as manager of Fulham in 1997. After management at Fulham came to an abrupt end, Wilkins coaching career saw spells as an assistant manager and trusted backroom staff member. He worked under Gianluca Vialli at his beloved Chelsea and Watford, then with Dennis Wise at Millwall.
Wilkins would find himself back where he felt the most comfortable with Chelsea in 2008 with Luiz Felipe Scolari, but Scolari did not last very long as the gaffer. Wilkins would survive being shipped out with Scolari, and wound up winning the FA Cup in 2009 with interim manager Guus Hiddink. Things would only get better for Wilkins as an assistant. In 2010, Wilkins was a part of the staff that saw Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea win the Premier League and FA Cup. A great testament to an even greater professional career. While Wilkins contract was not renewed by Chelsea at the end of the season, it can be certain that there was no greater joy than being a staff member at Chelsea and winning two trophies in the same campaign.
After short spells at Fulham and Villa as an assistant, Wilkins would turn to punditry and he was quite talented at doing so.
From all of us at The Claret & View, we offer our most sincere condolences to the Wilkins family at this time.