There was a minute’s silence at Ibrox, because he played 70 times for Rangers. They were singing his name at Millwall, where he helped guide the team to the FA Cup final in 2004. There were memorials to him in Milan, where he played for AC Milan over three seasons. He was honored everywhere he played, everywhere he coached, (and many places where he didn’t), by everyone he knew and everyone who knew of him because he was loved not just for his football, but for his generosity of spirit, his openness and the kindness of his soul.
By far the biggest tribute to favorite son Ray “Butch” Wilkins was at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Appropriately, Chelsea chose to honor his memory not with a minute’s silence, but with a celebration of sound, an applause, which lasted well beyond the assigned minute. In the 8th minute (his shirt number for 207 appearances) it erupted again, spontaneously.
The no.8 was on the back of every player during warm-ups as well.
As the teams came out, the giant flag usually floated by the Matthew Harding Lower was for Ray this time — “one of our own” truly.
At the other end, the Shed End crowd-funded a three-row banner and that campaign overflowed with donations within hours. It was magnificent. They are now working on a permanent banner to add to the collection that rings around the pitch and across the various tiers of the stands.
And still another banner. He was loved.
Outside the ground, a wall of remembrance, flowers stacked up and notes left. John Terry, like Wilkins an honored Chelsea captain, left his captain’s armband on the wall. You can just see it, it’s the little black-and-white strip on top of the upper beige sign.
Inside the ground, signs everywhere honoring the player and assistant manager who came to symbolize everything good about the club he loved above all others.
In addition to a book of condolences that fans could sign (and still can do so either at the ground or online), the matchday programme was dedicated to his memory.
On the bench, one more tribute.
'There's only one Ray Wilkins...'— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 8, 2018
A special moment before kick-off this afternoon pic.twitter.com/fO8E9blcPM
And outside the ground, posters in his memory.
And a goal celebration, too.
It was a difficult day all around, for Ray’s family, for those who loved him, for supporters of Chelsea Football Club. But we can take heart from the fact that when this treasured man passed away, the club and our fellow supporters did right by his legacy — it was warm, it was genuine and it was positive.
RIP Ray Wilkins. You will be missed.