Ray Wilkins

So I never thought that my second blog post would be about Ray Wilkins, that wasn’t the plan. But then I realised that in the end that is exactly what all of this is about. Nothing is planned, we can’t make assumptions about anything. Anything at all really, particularly our health. That’s been one of the biggest wake up calls for me over the last two weeks. You can’t take anything for granted.

I’m a Chelsea fan. Slightly lapsed recently (please forgive me) but a Chelsea fan nonetheless. In my time, I have been a season ticket holder in The Shed End and I’ve travelled home and away, over land and sea ‘and Leicester’ as we sing to follow ‘Jose’s blue and white army’ and the variants that came before and after the great man from Portugal. From Man City to Moscow and Southampton to Sophia.

One of my earliest memories is of us beating ‘dirty’ Leeds in the 1970 FA Cup Final and in our attic are scrap books that I kept through the mid and late ‘70’s that heralded the rise and fall and a little bit more of a fall of that team that were so close to my heart.

Central to those scrap books, particularly from about 1977 onwards was Ray ‘Butch’ Wilkins. At 18 he was the youngest Chelsea captain and he became a talisman for the England midfield appearing for them 84 times and captaining the team on 10 occasions. The first ‘Captain Fantastic’. Ray was everything that as a 10 year old you wanted to be. Everything. And the parts of my wall at home that didn’t have Tubeway Army or Gary Numan posters on had posters and pictures of Ray Wilkins and his Chelsea team.

Ray was omnipresent through my Chelsea life, from player to captain to assistant manager to caretaker manager and because of that we forgave him his dalliances with other teams, because we knew at heart that he was Chelsea through and through.

‘At heart.’ ‘Heart’ is a phrase that is used a lot in sport. It describes the passion and commitment of both players and fans. How ironic is that?

It turns out Ray’s heart was not that good, because yesterday he died at the age of 61 following a cardiac arrest. It wasn’t the first time that he had issues with his heart, less than a year ago he had had a double heart bypass operation. The signs were there.

Now that makes what I have look pretty basic. I’ve got the Audi A1 to Ray’s S8 when it comes to heart issues, but nonetheless here was a man, a sportsman, who whilst he admitted to having some challenges in his personal life, was a man who had captained both Chelsea and England. Guys like this don’t get ill, they aren’t unfit and hell they don’t die of cardiac arrests.

But that’s the point, the whole big thing point to all of this. They do. They bloody well do. What Ray died of and what happened to me is probably one of the most politically correct illnesses that you can have. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t discriminate at all. It doesn’t care how old you are, what sex you are or what ethnic background you are from and least of all, it doesn’t give a damn about how many times you have captained your national team. It doesn’t care.

So I never thought that my second blog post would be about Ray Wilkins, that wasn’t the plan.

But it has been and it shows that none of this is planned. All you can do is understand what is going on in your body, read the signs that it clearly gives you and adapt your life to accommodate those signs. That way you can start to see what the plan is and if you are lucky you can make changes to it if you need to.

Rest in peace Ray, you were then and always will be, in my eyes, what is often an overly used phrase. You Sir were a legend and all of us who have ever held Chelsea dear in our heart salute you.

‘Heart’ see there it is again.

Published by

Graham Barnetson

Im a 49 year old man who had a heart attack and wasn't quite ready for it. ‘9 days in Oldham’ is my way of helping me to come to terms with what happened and also to share my journey with others so that hopefully just one person doesn’t have to go through what I and my family have gone through and continue to. I am married to Jackie and we have two children, Freya, who is a first year Physiotherapy undergraduate and Edward, who is preparing to take his GCSEs. We live in Datchet, near Windsor in the U.K.

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