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Ray Wilkins, former England soccer captain, dies at 61

Chelsea captain Ray Wilkins in 1976.

Chelsea captain Ray Wilkins in 1976. Credit: AP

Ray Wilkins, an elegant midfielder who captained England’s national soccer team and played for illustrious teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea and AC Milan in a 24-year career, died Wednesday. He was 61.

St. George’s Hospital said in a statement on behalf of Wilkins’ family that he died Wednesday morning. Wilkins had been in an induced coma after a cardiac arrest led to a fall on March 30.

Nicknamed “Butch,” Wilkins played 84 times for England, captaining the team for 10 games. He also played for Rangers and Queens Park Rangers, among others, in a club career that ended in 1997.

He went on to coach QPR and Fulham, as well as having a brief spell in charge of Jordan’s national team. He was assistant coach at a slew of clubs, most notably Chelsea from 2008-10.

Chelsea described Wilkins as a “popular and much-loved figure” who was “widely regarded by the many people who met him as one of the nicest guys in football, possessing a wonderful turn of phrase and a contagious love for the sport.”

Wilkins’ soothing voice and insight made him stand out as a commentator on British TV and radio in recent years.

As a player, he was a technically gifted midfielder, two-footed, and an intelligent passer of the ball.

Wilkins “was the consummate midfielder who possessed brilliant footballing skills and a brain to match,” United said in a statement.

As a player, he won the FA Cup with United in 1983 and the Scottish league title with Rangers in 1989.

In between, he moved to AC Milan in 1984 and was one of the few high-profile English players to play abroad. He played in Milan for three years before a short stint at Paris Saint-Germain.

At the international level, one of Wilkins’ most famous moments came in 1986 when he became the first England player to be sent off in a World Cup after throwing the ball at a referee during a group game against Morocco.

“A wonderful footballer and a delightful man,” tweeted former England striker Gary Lineker, who played alongside Wilkins in the 1986 World Cup and finished as the tournament’s top scorer. “It was a pleasure to have played alongside him with England. No teammate was more helpful and supportive. I’ll be forever grateful.”

Wilkins is survived by his wife, Jackie, two children and several grandchildren.

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