I was very sad to hear the news of the passing of the great Ray Wilkins yesterday. Although I was not around to experience his playing days, I thoroughly enjoyed his punditry on Sky Sports and was very intrigued by his spell as manager of the Jordan national team.
Wilkins was also one of the best examples of an English footballer abroad, playing for two of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Having established himself as a standout player in his homeland, starring for Chelsea and Manchester United, lifting the FA Cup with the latter, the England international made the move to Italian giants AC Milan in 1984.
Signed for a fee of £1.5 million, Wilkins was joined at Milan by his international teammate, Mark Hateley. The pair were both regulars during their time with the Rossoneri and despite this not being the most successful period in the club’s history, they did reach a Coppa Italia final in their first season.
During his time in the Italian capital, Wilkins made over 100 appearances in all competitions and was remembered by the Italian newspaper La Corriere della Sera as a “serious and meticulous professional who was immediately appreciated for his long and precise passes”.
Following his time with Milan, the former United player would move to France to sign for PSG. His time with the French giants was less successful and lasted just 13 appearances in the latter part of 1987 but it’s fair to say not many players, let alone Englishmen (apart from David Beckham), can say they’ve played for two of the biggest clubs in Europe.
He then returned to the UK to have successful spells with Rangers and QPR.
Then came a coaching career which lasted more than twenty years but his last role as a manager came at the helm of Jordan. The Middle Eastern country has not been a footballing hotbed in recent times, they’re currently ranked 117th in the world, but Wilkins did not shy away from the challenge. He led the country during their 2015 AFC Asian Cup campaign, picking up a 5-1 win over Palestine.
Rest in peace, Ray.