Big Interview

Ray Wilkins

Friday, 06 January 2017, 15:00

By: Rangers Football Club

On RangersTV supporters can watch in-depth one-to-ones with a lot of the club’s greatest stars as they discuss their football careers and years at Ibrox.

Today, Ray Wilkins recalls the day he joined Graeme Souness’ Rangers from Paris St Germain in 1987 and the success he enjoyed at the start of the nine-in-a-row run.

RAY WILKINS came through the youth ranks at Chelsea and by the time he joined Rangers in 1987 he had already played for the Blues, Manchester United, AC Milan and Paris St Germain while making 84 appearances for England at senior level.

A top class midfielder with laser-precision passing, Graeme Souness brought ‘Butch’ to Ibrox for £250,000 at a time when he was struggling to cement a place in PSG’s starting eleven.

It proved to be a shrewd piece of business as Wilkins settled in quickly at Rangers, becoming a fans’ favourite, and on the pitch he showed his class and composure in the engine room.

Many would say he was conservative – Manchester United boss Ron Atkinson dubbed Wilkins ‘The Crab’ because of his liking for a square pass – but his unforgettable volley in the famous 5-1 victory Celtic will be forever remembered.

He left the club in December 1989 for Queens Park Rangers and received a standing ovation from over 40,000 fans after his final game against Dunfermline.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW ON RANGERSTV HERE

Name: Ray Wilkins
DOB: 14.09.1956
POB: Hillingdon
Position: Midfield

Rangers Appearances: 96 (1987-89)
Rangers Goals: 3

Rangers Honours:
League Championship – 1988/89, 1989/90
League Cup – 1988/89

Clubs: Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan, Paris St Germain, Rangers, Queens Park Rangers, Crystal Palace, Wycombe Wanderers, Hibernian, Millwall

International Appearances: 84 (England)
International Goals: 3

Was the move to Rangers in 1987 a good one for you?

RW: “Yes it was, I was playing for Paris St Germain at the time and things weren’t going exactly as we had planned.

“We had three foreigners but only two could play, the others were Safet Susic and Gabriel Calderon who were both forward players.

“At Paris we were struggling to score a goal so Gerard Houllier, who was the coach at the time, decided to play the two forward players for the majority of the time, consequently I didn’t really play too much.

“I then had a week’s full of phone calls from Graeme Souness asking me to come to Rangers. I hummed and hawed because I didn’t want to leave Paris, I wanted to give it the best possible chance I could.

“But at the end it was just a fantastic move for us. We came to Glasgow lock, stock and barrel with the wife and kiddies and we just had an absolute ball, two-and-a-half years of real good fun and successful as well.”

When Graeme Souness moved for you was it a surprise?

RW: “Yes, because he got great enjoyment out of kicking me when I played against him! I thought ‘why on earth would he want to sign me?’

“But I was thrilled he did and he and Walter were a great partnership. It was just great fun, every day was just a joy to be there because we worked extremely hard and we played hard.

“That was the one thing about Scottish football that I really enjoyed. Once the whistle went you played for 90 minutes, and whether you were winning five-nil or six-nil the opposition would still give you a game.

“I enjoyed it immensely and to have the privilege of playing at Ibrox as well every other week, the supporters were just phenomenal.”

You signed during the night then played Hearts the next day, tell us about that because it was all a bit cloak and dagger.

RW: “It was cloak and dagger because Graeme asked me to wear a hat and a scarf, he didn’t want anyone to know I was coming here!

“We landed early morning, very early morning, and went to the ground around 11am. The first person I saw there was Ian Durrant.

“He welcomed me very pleasantly as you could imagine Durranty would. I can remember what he said but I don’t think you could print it!

“He was coming out of the sauna and I thought ‘what is this young man doing coming out of a sauna on the morning of a game?’

“It certainly didn’t affect his performance and he was a wonderful player.”

What did you make of the atmosphere in Ibrox Stadium?

RW: “On derby day I don’t think, when you run out, there is a better atmosphere in world football.

“It’s just a crescendo of noise, and it was interesting coming back to play in the veterans game against Celtic at Ibrox a few years ago now.

“John Greig phoned me and asked me to play and I said I would love to. He thought we could expect a crowd of 20,000 but we got there a couple of hours before the kick off and you couldn’t get down the road.

“It ended up there was 50,000 fans there and I think it’s only a Rangers-Celtic game that could get that kind of support for a veterans’ game.”

Graeme Souness saw you as a replacement for him in the holding midfield role. How big a compliment was that?

RW: “It was a massive compliment, I’ve always thought Graeme Souness was one of the best holding midfielders that we’ve produced.

“He was a massive influence on Liverpool, so yes it was an immense compliment. He was still playing and playing to an extremely high level. He probably just needed a rest now and again and that’s why he brought me in.”

You mentioned Ian Durrant, but who were the other personalities in the dressing room?

RW: “I had the great fortune of changing in the far left corner as you walk in and I had Ally McCoist on my left and Davie Cooper on my right.

“You couldn’t come across two bigger characters. Ally with the gift of the gab, he was just an incredible man around the dressing room.

“Davie Cooper, in his own right, had a fantastic wit. I loved him to pieces and he’s a sad loss to society let alone football.

“So that’s who I changed with but we had so many characters, a dressing room full of them. That’s why I think we continued the success that Rangers had because they got together a great mix of Scots and Englishman, and a few Irishman as well, and it just worked extremely well.”

 You were around at the start of nine-in-a-row. Is it nice to know you were a part of that?

RW: “It’s great. We had to get something back on Celtic and we worked our socks off to do so.

“We still had some very tough encounters with them it has to be said but we always felt we had a great bunch and we had the best spirit I’ve ever known at a football club and around a dressing room, it was just incredible.

“We had guys who would fight for the cause and I don’t think you could ask for much more than that. If that is coupled with ability then nine times out of ten you will win.”

In 96 appearances for Rangers you scored three goals, including your famous strike against Celtic. Talk us through that moment.

RW: “People often mention that when I go back, and for me it was a great to score. I am not overly concerned about who it was against, it was just nice to get a goal for Rangers because I didn’t score too many.

“It came from a long throw and there was a flick on and the ball was then headed out. It’s either one of those that flies in the back of the net or it goes over the back of the stand.

“Fortunately for me it zoomed into the back of the net and it was a wonderful moment and one I do cherish.

“We won 5-1 and we also beat Celtic 4-1 that season as well. But that day we played some great football and we really did take Celtic to task as well.”

Was that the best goal you ever scored?

RW: “No, the best I scored was for England against Belgium in 1980 at the European Championships.”

Do you wish you had stayed on a bit longer at Rangers?

RW: “Yes I do, albeit I had a great time at Queens Park Rangers. Perhaps another year I could have played up at Rangers and stayed in the side.

“The fear I had was not being in the team. I was still at an age where I felt I could play but Durranty and Fergie were playing so well it was going to be a difficult choice for Graeme.

“I took that choice away from him but looking back I could have stayed at Ibrox for another year, or at least finished that season.”

Can you pick one player out from your time at Rangers who was the best?

RW: “That’s very tough because in every position we had top quality, that is what made the club so good.

“You realised that if you got the ball out wide to Trevor Steven or Gary Stevens bombing forward the ball was going to be put in the box.

“We also had quality forwards and McCoist will always score, give him a chance and he’ll find the net. But everywhere on the field there was real quality.”

How much did you enjoy working under Graeme Souness?

RW: “I think Graeme is an under-estimated manager and I thought he was fantastic, I loved working for him.

“He was as straight as a dye and he managed as he played, just an honest man.

“I loved the combination of him and Walter. Graeme came in and he would be kicking things all over the place, and then you had the calm Walter at the end of it when Graeme had disappeared out the dressing room.

“It was the perfect match, a marriage made in heaven.”

You were at the club when Mo Johnston signed for Rangers. What do you remember about that time?

RW: “I think everybody in the world thought it was a bit crazy, but Graeme knew what he was doing and he brought in a quality footballer.

“I think, if I’m honest, it’s the greatest thing that has ever been done in Scotland, to break that barrier.

“We do play football and football is what it is all about. Okay it took a long time to break that barrier down but it was something that had to be done.

“Maurice was a fabulous footballer, I loved playing with him because his movement off the ball was something very special.

“If you had the ball and time in midfield you could guarantee he would make a very good run and you had a chance of picking him out.”

From your time at Rangers was there a highlight?

RW: “Every day was a joyous day, but there was one game against St Mirren that really made me chuckle.

“Graeme used to come on with ten minutes to go with his socks rolled down and shirt outside his shorts. There was this little buzz that used to go around the ground.

“He was coming on one day and we were two goals up and very comfortable. I had a quick word with Goughie and Terry Butcher because Graeme was the type of player who would run to the full back and get the ball, pass it there then get it back. He was all over the pitch so I had a little word to the lads and told them not to let him touch the ball!

“When he came on he went to receive the ball and they passed it past him and we continued to play. We finished the game and I was sitting in the dressing room in bits.

“Graeme came in and he just went off on one, and we just couldn’t stop laughing.

“So we had won the game comfortably and Graeme hadn’t touched the ball which was an absolute delight!”

Your final game for Rangers was a 3-0 win over Dunfermline at Ibrox and you set up a goal for Mo Johnston that day.

RW: “Yes, and he made one of those runs. But that was a tearful day when I left and we had a little celebration upstairs.

“Senga Murray had done a fantastic portrait and the players had all signed it. It did bring a tear I’ve got to say but it was just great times.

“It’s probably the first time I left a club halfway through the season when it is doing extremely well. So from my point of view it was something that had to be done but it was a very sad day when it happened.

“I did, however, leave on great terms with everybody.”

You came back to Ibrox as a Hibs player, did that feel strange?

RW: “It did because I was getting booed by the Hibs supporters and cheered by the Rangers supporters!

“I had a nice little time at Hibs, but it did seem very strange when I came back to play against Rangers.

“I guested once for Rangers in a testimonial against Middlesbrough and been back a couple of times to play but to play against them was strange.”

How did you feel when you were inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame?

RW: “It was very special when I was asked to come up to accept, it that was a great honour for me.

“When you think of the great players who have worn the blue jersey and when you walk in and see your name up on the board, I get a massive kick out of it.”