Ex England and Chelsea star Ray Wilkins at 61 due to heart complications.
The world of football has united to pay tribute to Ray Wilkins, the former England captain who died in hospital this week aged 61.
Wilkins was taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London last week after suffering a heart attack at his home. He was placed in an induced coma five days ago but never regained consciousness.
Chelsea-legend Wilkins played for England 84 times, captaining his country on 10 occasions. His playing career spanned three decades and he starred for clubs in four different countries. After retiring from football in 1997, he became a manager and coach, most recently at Aston Villa.
Figures from across the beautiful game praised his qualities as a player and a man today after his family released a statement announcing his death.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Gary Lineker and Frank Lampard were among the many figures who paid tribute to Wilkins, described by one mourner as ‘one of the finest midfielders of his generation’.
A statement on behalf of Wilkins’ family read: ‘It is with great sadness we announce that Raymond Colin Wilkins passed away this morning.
‘We would like to thank St George’s staff for the amazing work they have done to care for our beloved Ray.
‘We would also like to say thank you for the many goodwill messages we have received from Ray’s friends, colleagues, and members of the public.
‘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, who bravely battled poor health including ulcerative colitis over the last few years, was given the all clear after a double heart bypass operation last July.
Two years ago he checked into the Priory Hospital in Woking for a five-week rehabilitation programme after being banned from driving for four years for drink-driving.
Yet the popular former Chelsea, Manchester United and AC Milan midfielder continued to work in the media on a regular basis and was held in the highest regard by everyone in football.
He had carried out media duties on talkSPORT and Sky Sports, performing as a regular pundit on both platforms shortly before suffering the cardiac arrest.
Born in Hillingdon, Wilkins came through the ranks at his boyhood club Chelsea and made his first-team debut against Norwich City at the age of 17 in 1973.
He would go on to play 179 league matches for the club over the next six years having been appointed club captain at just 18.
After relegation in 1978-79, Chelsea accepted an offer of £800,000 from Manchester United and Wilkins was on his way north.
He made 160 league appearances for the Old Trafford club and helped them win the FA Cup in 1983, defeating Brighton and Hove Albion in the final.
In 1984, United sold Wilkins to Italian giants Milan for £1.5million and he spent three years with the club before a brief spell at Paris Saint-Germain and two years at Rangers.
RAY WILKINS FACTFILE
Born: September 14, 1956
Died: April 4, 2018
Playing career: Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers, QPR, Crystal Palace, Wycombe Wanderers, Hibernian, Millwall, Leyton Orient
Honours: FA Cup (1983), FA Charity Shield (1983), Scottish League Cup (1988), Scottish Premier Division (1989)
England caps: 84 (10 as captain)
International goals: 3
Managerial career: Queens Park Rangers, Fulham, Chelsea (assistant), Watford (assistant), Millwall (assistant), England U21 (assistant), Chelsea (assistant), Fulham (assistant), Jordan, Aston Villa (assistant).
Wilkins returned to London in 1989, spending five seasons with Queens Park Rangers and amassing over 150 league appearances.
He also represented Crystal Palace, Wycombe, Hibernian, Millwall and Leyton Orient in the twilight of his playing career.
Wilkins was called up to play for England by Don Revie in 1976, making his debut against Italy during a tournament in the United States.
He quickly became an established name in the team, helping England qualify for the 1980 European Championships, their first finals in a decade.
In all, Wilkins won 84 caps for his country, captaining the side on 10 occasions and scoring three goals.