Football: Ex-England midfielder and Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins dies at 61

Ray Wilkins fell ill after suffering a cardiac arrest last month and had been in a critical condition in St George's Hospital, in Tooting, south-west London.
Ray Wilkins fell ill after suffering a cardiac arrest last month and had been in a critical condition in St George's Hospital, in Tooting, south-west London.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS) - Ray Wilkins, the former England midfielder, has died at the age of 61.

Wilkins, whose clubs included Chelsea, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers and Rangers in a 24-year playing career that spanned three decades, fell ill after suffering a cardiac arrest last month and had been in a critical condition in St George's Hospital, in Tooting, south-west London.

"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," his family said in a statement on the St George's website.

He made his senior debut for the Blues aged 17 against Norwich in 1973. He joined United after Chelsea were relegated in the 1978-79 season and won the FA Cup with the Old Trafford club in 1983.

"Everybody associated with Chelsea Football Club is devastated to learn of the passing of our former player, captain and assistant coach, Ray Wilkins. Rest in peace, Ray, you will be dreadfully missed," the Engilsh Premier League club said on Twitter.

"It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we have learnt that former England midfielder Ray Wilkins has passed away, aged 61," added the Professional Footballers' Association.

"The thoughts and condolences of everyone at the PFA are with his family and friends."

Wilkins made his England debut aged 20 against Italy in a tournament in the United States and was a fixture in the England side for the next decade, captaining the team 10 times.

A winner of 84 caps, Wilkins played at two World Cup Finals. He became the fourth player sent off for England when he was dismissed during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico in a game against Morocco.

Wilkins - known in the game by his childhood nickname "Butch" - played for 12 clubs and was on the coaching staff of several more, but is commonly associated with Chelsea.

He started his career there and spent six years with the Blues, while also having numerous stints as assistant manager. On one occasion, he led the side on a caretaker basis.

Wilkins also managed QPR, Fulham and Jordan and had most recently been working as a pundit.