Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland football legends' tribute to Ray Wilkins after his sudden death

By Allan Preston

Northern Ireland football legends have paid tribute to their former Manchester United team-mate Ray Wilkins, who died yesterday at the age of 61.

Pundit Wilkins, who also captained England and Chelsea in his playing days, died at St George's Hospital in London after suffering a cardiac arrest.

"So sad to hear about the passing of Ray Wilkins, a top guy, a top player and one of football's nicest gents you could wish to meet, RIP my friend," said Norman Whiteside on Twitter yesterday.

Back in 1982 when Whiteside debuted for Manchester United aged just 16, it was a Ray Wilkins goal that secured a 1-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion.

A year later he helped the team lift the FA Cup. Former Northern Ireland star Sammy McIlroy, who also played with Wilkins at Old Trafford, described him as a "lovely gentleman and fantastic footballer".

"It was a privilege to play with Ray at Manchester United and also in later life in the legends in the old boys teams," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"He was a very eloquent speaker, knew his football inside out and was friends with everyone.

"It's such a tragic loss to everyone that Ray has passed away. I feel very sorry for his wife Jackie, children and grandchildren. He'll be sorely missed."

Ex-Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said Wilkins had an "impressive football talent" and a "fantastic career".

"I am very, very sad to hear the news about Ray and send my deepest sympathies to Ray's wife Jackie, his children Jade and Ross and all of his family," he said.

"Ray was a great football man, who was well respected and liked by all who knew him and he always had a kind word and time for people."

Former England team-mate and BBC presenter Gary Lineker commented: "Deeply saddened to hear that Ray Wilkins has passed away.

"A wonderful footballer and a delightful man. It was a pleasure to have played alongside him with England.

"No team-mate was more helpful and supportive. I'll be forever grateful. Thoughts are with his family,"

Ex-England striker Alan Shearer also wrote on Twitter: "So sad to hear the news about Ray Wilkins. He lived for and loved football." Capped for England 84 times, Wilkins played for a total of 11 clubs during his career on the pitch, which included spells with AC Milan, Rangers and QPR.

His managerial career saw him take the helm at QPR, Fulham and the Jordan national team as well as spells as assistant manager at Chelsea.

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