A minute’s applause will ring around Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and heartfelt tributes will be paid to Ray Wilkins, a home-grown Chelsea legend who has died at the age of 61. In terms of stature and respect within the club, Ray had few equals; a thoughtful, sincere and gracious ambassador who seldom missed a home
A minute’s applause will ring around Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and heartfelt tributes will be paid to Ray Wilkins, a home-grown Chelsea legend who has died at the age of 61.
In terms of stature and respect within the club, Ray had few equals; a thoughtful, sincere and gracious ambassador who seldom missed a home match, and took immense pride in introducing his grandchildren – Oliver, Frankie, Ava, Freddie, Jake and Archie – to the highs and lows of supporting the Blues; cradling them as babies and toddlers in his seat in the lower east stand.
The tributes from fellow players will be tearful and emotional as the Chelsea family – as well as Ray’s wife and immediate family – come together at the West Ham derby to declare just how much this gentleman will be missed.
He made nearly 200 appearances for the Blues, through the rocky 1970s when relegation was a fact of life for a club that often seemed to have lost its way completely.
He steadied the ship when it most needed it, being given the captain’s armband at the age of just 18, and winning promotion back to the First Division in 1977.
He also had two spells as coach at the Bridge, as well as playing for – seemingly – half the teams in Europe, and winning 84 England caps in an international career which began while he was in SW6.
In later years he was a respected pundit and TV commentator.
Ray – or Butch as he was always nicknamed – followed his older brother Graham through the Chelsea youth system, making his debut in the autumn of 1973 at 17 in a team which still numbered greats including Ron Harris, Alan Hudson, Peter Osgood and Peter Bonetti.
He captained the Blues for the first time at White Hart Lane, and wore the armband for the next five years.
A past Chelsea Player of the Year, he bossed midfield and was a great encourager of young talent. Sold to Manchester United in the summer of 1979 (the £825,000 fee was a record for a Chelsea player) he later played for AC Milan – learning Italian, Paris St-Germain, QPR, Hibs, Orient, Millwall and Rangers. He also managed QPR and Fulham.
In 1999 he joined Gianluca Vialli’s coaching staff back at the Bridge, helping steer the side to FA Cup glory.
Ray died on April 4 at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, where he had been admitted following a heart attack and fall.