‘Humble man’ Ray Wilkins earned respect of the Hibs players

Ray Wilkins, who has died aged 61, played 17 games for Hibs
Ray Wilkins, who has died aged 61, played 17 games for Hibs
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Alex Miller has paid tribute to former England star Ray Wilkins, who has died at the age of 61.

Miller persuaded Wilkins to sign for Hibs towards the end of a glittering career spanning spells with clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan and Paris St Germain believing his experience could help his young Easter Road squad.

Wilkins, capped 54 times for England and who also played for Rangers, actually made his debut for the Capital club on his 40th birthday, a 1-0 league win at home over Raith Rovers.

In all, he played 17 games for Hibs in the 1996/97 season after his surprise arrival in Edinburgh. later moving on to Millwall.

Miller said: “I’d been watching a “Goals on Sunday” type programme and saw Ray playing and thought he couldn’t be enjoying it as he was not involved in the middle of the park with the ball going over his head.

“I got his phone number from, I think, Walter Smith, phoned him up and explained I had a young team and we needed someone who could pass the ball, an experienced head in midfield. I also told him we couldn’t pay him a lot of money but we’d also pay for his flights up and down from London.

“There was no signing-on fee and Ray actually knew someone at British Airways who could get him flights fairly cheap while I got an Edinburgh hotel to give him a room for £25 a night.

“He signed on a Thursday and I remember going to the airport to pick him up and taking him to the stadium as we started training at 10.30am. He walked into the changing room with all his Louis Vuitton stuff, his washbag, suit carrier and so on.

“I told the boys ‘you think you are superstars some of you, but here’s someone who can play, who’s played at all those big clubs. Ray was great for us, the boys were very responsive to him, he mixed well with them and they had a lot of respect for him. He was a genuinely humble man.”

Wilkins had been in an induced coma since suffering a cardiac arrest at his Surrey home last week but died yesterday, leaving behind his wife Jackie, daughter Jade, son Ross, and six grandchildren.

Miller said: “It’s a tragedy Ray has died so young, my deepest condolences go to his family.”

The Easter Road club also paid their own tribute to their former player. A statement on the club website said: “Hibernian are saddened to learn of the passing of former player Ray Wilkins.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this sad time.”

Wilkins was widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in football, reflected in the flood of tributes paid by numerous clubs and former team-mates and opponents the length and breadth of the country.