RAY Wilkins is regarded as one of the most colourful global footballers at his peak in the 1980s. Now he’s sadly fighting for his life after suffering cardiac arrest.
The 61-year-old former England skipper, who starred with Chelsea, Manchester United, and AC Milan, was placed in an induced coma at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. He is thought to have fallen and hit his head after his heart stopped.
His wife Jackie told the Daily Mirror: “He’s critically ill. The cardiac arrest led to a fall which has meant he’s had to be put in an induced coma. It’s very, very bad.”
Wilkins played 84 times for England, captaining 10 times and scoring three goals. He also played for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers, QPR and Crystal Palace. His playing honours include Football League Cup, FA Cup (1983), FA Charity Shield (1983), Scottish League Cup (1988, 1989) and Scottish Premiership (1988).
He later went to management with stints at QPR, Fulham, Jordan national team and Chelsea (caretaker and assistant). He has also been an assistant boss at Chelsea for three spells, and took over as caretaker manager when Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked in February 2009.
He went on to work with Guus Hiddink at Stamford Bridge and remained as assistant manager when Carlo Ancelotti took over in 2009. Wilkins left the club in November 2010.
‘REAL BLUE BLOOD’
Ancelotti wrote in his 2010 autobiography: “Ray is one of those select few, always present, noble in spirit, a real blue-blood. Chelsea flows in his veins – without him we wouldn’t have won a thing.”
The second of four brothers, all footballers, “Butch” as he’s popularly known, started his football career at Chelsea’s youth sector and became team captain at only 19 years.
Endowed with an extraordinary tactical intelligence, the deep-lying playmaker from Hillingdon in 1979 moved to Manchester United, acting as the thinking mind of the Red Devils for five seasons, before signing for AC Milan – one of the few England stars who excelled in Italy’s Serie ‘A’.
A serious and meticulous professional, he was much appreciated for his long-range and accurate shots and for his exemplary correctness.
Family members say he collapsed at home in Cobham, Surrey, on Wednesday, just hours after appearing on Alan Brazil’s talkSPORT breakfast show, on which he is a regular pundit.
Alan Brazil said: “Ray Wilkins is one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet and working with him on the show is always a joy. Keep fighting, Butch.”
Wilkins has battled poor health including ulcerative colitis over the last few years, but got the all-clear after a double heart bypass operation last July.
He was recently on Chelsea’s back-room staff under Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.
Tributes poured in on social media for him on Friday night. Following the reports Chelsea urged Wilkins to “keep fighting”, tweeting: “The thoughts of everybody at Chelsea Football Club are with Ray Wilkins and his family tonight. Keep fighting Ray, you have our love and support.”
Former Chelsea captain Frank Lampard said all his “thoughts and strength” were with Wilkins, describing him as an “absolute Gentleman” in an Instagram post.
Ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba said in an Instagram post: “Just found out about the news, be strong Ray Wilkins and family. We blue army are sending you our prayers on this religious day”.
Medically, his lifestyle has been one of ups and downs. 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 star-spangled midfielder has continued to work in the media on a regular basis and is held in the highest regard by everyone in football.
This weekend may be the toughest, medically, for Wilkins as he fights for his life. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and pray for him for that ‘Ray’ of divine light to save an iconic footballer.