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After Steve Clarke left the club to link with Zola at West Ham, Chelsea Football Club is delighted to announce the appointment of Ray Wilkins as assistant first team coach.

He brings with him a wealth of experience and expertise from his time in British and European football, and resumes a career with Chelsea that began 35 years ago when the then 17-year-old from Hillingdon in west London signed as an apprentice, making his first team debut in the same month, October 1973.

His time as a schoolboy under the wing of club had begun with Chelsea riding the crest of a wave but by the time Wilkins was ready for an early introduction to the Stamford Bridge crowd, shaky finance and shaky football had set in.

A team devoid of confidence was far from the perfect environment to nurture the best new talent at the club but what the downturn did provide was opportunity - and among the dying embers of the 1974/75 season and our top-flight status, Wilkins became Chelsea's youngest captain at the tender age of 18.

Relegation by then was impossible to prevent and with zero cash for new players, Chelsea fell back on homegrowns to keep the club alive. Playing every single game for two seasons, the new skipper lead us back to the First Division with promotion coming at the end of the 1976/77 campaign. He was voted Chelsea Player of the Year in both 1976 and 1977.

After dipping briefly with the responsibility of captaincy, his personal form in midfield was consistently outstanding. His range and accuracy of passing, his reading of the game and his shooting ability were the platform on which the team was built.

More adventurous in playing style than the image that stuck to him later in his career, Wilkins was so good that England came calling while he was still plying his trade in Division Two. Twenty-four of his eventual 84 international caps came whilst a Chelsea player, a record that stood until the influx of foreign stars in the late 1990s.

Twenty years earlier, Petar Borota rather than Marcel Desailly was type of overseas player within Chelsea's range and with bankruptcy a far more likely outcome from each season than trophies, every Chelsea fan knew in their heart of hearts that their star player would soon be moving on.

Following another relegation in 1979, he was sold to Manchester United for the sake of both his career and Chelsea's bank balance. The £825,000 fee received was easily a club record at the time.

Wilkins played 198 games for Chelsea, scoring 34 goals. In a similar period at Old Trafford, he didn't break double figures for goals but he did turn back time to his Chelsea days with a wonderful strike in an FA Cup Final, the trophy, won after a replay, his one taste of silverware in England.

Wilkins moved next to Italy and in an era when many English players abroad failed to settle, he spent three years at AC Milan, stacking up on knowledge about the European game, a process continued at Paris St-Germain before he played a part in the Rangers revival in Scotland.

He returned to London with QPR, a club where he would become player/manager before turning out briefly for a succession of clubs and then managing for a short spell at Chelsea's other west London neighbours, Fulham.

The old club came calling in February 1999 when our then manager, Gianluca Vialli, faced time without his assistant Graham Rix. Having initially observed training, Wilkins, who knew Vialli from his time playing in Serie A, stood in when Rix was sent to prison for six months. He made such a positive contribution that he was retained and worked alongside Rix on his release.

The new assistant had already helped Chelsea qualify for our first Champions League campaign and record a memorable result in the San Siro against his former club Milan.

Together, Vialli, Rix and Wilkins formed an effective coaching team, Wilkins spending time working with individuals, successfully encouraging world class names to give their best and educating young homegrowns. It was during this time that John Terry made early strides on a similar career path to the former Chelsea and England captain.

Wilkins was able to travel abroad where Rix couldn't and saw the Blues reach the quarter-finals in an impressive Champions League debut. At home we won the 2000 FA Cup Final.

When Vialli was dismissed the following September, Wilkins and Rix became an acting management team for two matches before Claudio Ranieri took the reins. The Italian arrived with his own complete backroom team so the existing staff soon moved on.

Wilkins worked again with Vialli at Watford and continued the Chelsea connection as Dennis Wise's assistant at Millwall, reaching another FA Cup Final.

He then continued to share his considerable wisdom - to young players as part of the England Under 21 set-up and to the general public via media work.

He has always remained welcome at his original football home. In 2005, he was a judge and mentor in the Football Icon TV talent search, run in conjunction with the Chelsea Academy, and he frequently skippers the Chelsea Old Boys team in their charity matches.

Wilkins is also trustee of the Chelsea Past Players' Trust which raises funds to support our former players and staff.

As recently as last month, he was a guest of honour at an international youth tournament to celebrate the opening of the new Academy and Community Pavilion at Cobham, a location that now becomes part of his daily life following his appointment as assistant first team coach.

Wilkins's appointment is effective immediately. Welcome back Ray!
 

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yes, would be hard for Zola to have a role he would want with us though, lets be honest. He is not ready to be the boss even at West Ham IMO.
 
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