By Richard Parks
Graeme Souness has hailed Ray Wilkins in the Sunday Times as the “best senior pro I ever had” during the spell at Rangers in the 1980s.
Wilkins died at the age of 61 on Wednesday in a London hospital, where he was being treated following a cardiac arrest.
An impeccable minute’s silence was observed at Ibrox before Rangers’ 4-0 win over Dundee on Saturday as both sets of players wore black armbands in memory of the former Bear.
Wilkins played 70 games for Rangers, winning a League and League Cup double in 1989, after being signed when Souness was in charge of the club in 1987.
“In 1987, my assistant at Rangers, Walter Smith, and I flew out on a private jet from Glasgow on a Friday afternoon to the outskirts of Paris, where he was with PSG, to persuade him to sign for us,” Souness wrote in the Sunday Times. “The contract negotiations were so protracted that the plane had to be moved because the aerodrome we were using was closing for the night.
“God knows what time it was when, with the deal done, we all boarded the flight back to Scotland. The next day, he started for Rangers against Hearts and was the best player on the pitch. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a professional.
“We bought him for £250,000. It was so cheap it was almost indecent. He was everything I could have wanted and more. For a team to be successful, a manager needs his senior players to run the dressing room. At any club, egos collide, words are spoken, occasionally it gets physical. A manager can’t afford the time to be getting involved in any of that. Ray and Terry Butcher were my go-to men at Rangers for sorting it.
“He was the best senior pro I ever had in terms of creating a winning mentality. His commitment in matches and training was exemplary but he proved his worth as much off the pitch as on it.
“His timekeeping was impeccable, he was always available to help his teammates and if there was a spat he made sure it never escalated into a feud.”
Football Insider verdict:
The tributes that have flooded in for Wilkins this week demonstrate the esteem in which he was held across the game, by former players, teammates and colleagues at the many clubs he graced. Among those was Rangers, where Wilkins had a successful two-year spell in the late 1980s when Souness was player-manager of the Glasgow giants. Wilkins’ touch, vision, nous and class made him an immensely popular figure at Ibrox, where his memory was impeccable observed during a minute’s silence on Saturday. He will not be forgotten by the club’s supporters, and Souness’ tribute does him proud.
In other Rangers news, a big-name attacker is to quit Ibrox at the end of the season.