Ray Wilkins: Football pays tribute to a 'genuinely lovely man'

‘Wilkins was a wonderful human being’

Ray Wilkins was a “genuinely lovely man” who was “liked by everybody”, says former England striker Gary Lineker.

Football has been paying tribute to former England and Chelsea midfielder Wilkins, who died aged 61 on Wednesday.

Former team-mates described a “superb footballer”, others spoke of “a friend for life”, or praised his passion for helping others to excel.

“One thing that shines through is what a wonderful human being he was,” Lineker said.

The Match of the Day presenter, who played alongside Wilkins for England, told BBC Sport he had “great memories of Ray as a team-mate and broadcasting with him as well”.

“He was just a delightfully charming man. He always very positive, and someone who was massively supportive when I first broke into the national team.

“He was a really talented player and had success not only in this country but also internationally. He lived for the game and he loved the game.”

As a player, Wilkins also had spells with Manchester United, AC Milan, Paris St-Germain, Rangers and QPR during a career that spanned 24 years.

He played 84 times for England, captaining his country on 10 occasions, and after retiring he was a manager with QPR, Fulham and the Jordan national team.

He was also Chelsea assistant coach from 2008 until 2010, working alongside Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.

Wilkins, who had also been working as a TV and radio pundit, suffered poor health in recent years and had double bypass heart surgery in July 2017.

He died in hospital in south London, four days after suffering cardiac arrest.

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

‘He brought light and fun and laughter’

England manager Gareth Southgate, who was with Wilkins during the latter’s brief spell at Crystal Palace, described him as “a true friend and a gentleman”.

“Ray was a great ambassador for the game, a proud Englishman who loved playing for his country,” he said.

“When he played with us you could immediately see that his technical ability to play the ball was phenomenal. In the modern game, those attributes would have been appreciated far more than they were at that time, so he really was a top player.”

Ex-England captain Terry Butcher told BBC Radio 5 live: “Words can’t describe how much light and fun and laughter he brought to football.”

He added: “I’m still pretty choked thinking about his passing. You don’t expect Ray to go at 61. I know he had some health problems but the last time I saw him – about two weeks ago – he seemed so full of life. He was a wonderful man.

“He mixed with the fans and he loved having a laugh. He never called me Terry, he always called me ‘Big Stuff’ and he called everyone else ‘geezer’. His energy and brightness would light up any room.”

Ex-England keeper Peter Shilton, another international team-mate, said he was “devastated” by the news of Wilkins’ death.

“He loved football, he was a connoisseur of the game, he was articulate and was a leader on and off the pitch,” he said. “He was a great lad, Ray.”

‘A real human being with such class’

In an Instagram post