Universally recognised as one of the nicest guys in football, Ray Wilkins’ warmth and decency spread beyond the borders of the beautiful game.
It is two years since one of the greatest midfielders in our history passed away. His exploits on the pitch and in the dugout are well known, but it is one story aired shortly after his death that perhaps best sums up what a great bloke Ray was.
A former soldier was homeless, living outside West Brompton station, not far from Stamford Bridge. One day a familiar face stopped by for a chat that was to change his life forever. He relayed the tale to TalkSport the day after Wilkins died.
‘He came over to me and I recognised him straightaway,’ said the ex-soldier. ‘He took some time to sit and chat and we were both sat on my bit of cardboard together.
‘He took the time to sit and talk. We were chatting about the army. He even took a phone call during that and said, ‘Look, I’ll call you back, I’m busy at the moment.’
‘We were sat chatting and he gave me £20 and told me to get myself a hot meal, and took me across the road to buy a coffee. As the bill came, I asked him: "Could I please buy this? I want to feel like a man."
‘He said he totally understood all of that. That night, I took that £20 and I got some shelter and I had a hot meal. During that time, when I was in the shelter, I met a guy who was helping ex-soldiers. He put me in touch with decent people who would help me.
‘I’m now fully recovered, not gambling, I have my own place, a beautiful girlfriend who I’m about to marry. I put it down to the time Ray took to give to a man who was nothing to him – a stranger – and I’m sorry if I’m getting emotional but he was a real, real hero to me and to millions of others across the world.’
Such acts of compassion and decency will never be forgotten by anyone fortunate enough to have known Ray. We continue to mourn his loss.