The football world was shocked at the sudden death of Ray Wilkins at the age of just 61.
Former England midfielder Wilkins was loved at countless clubs, and left a big impression on players at Chelsea in particular, after spending multiple spells there as a player and coach.
However, it was one of his charges from his first ever managerial spell who had perhaps the most glowing tribute, and one which shows a side of the man which he never felt the need to advertise.
In much the same way at wonderful feelgood stories about George Michael emerged only after the singer’s death, Wilkins’ generosity to former QPR midfielder Nigel Quashie is now being heard for the first time.
Scottish midfielder Quashie was just 17 years old when Wilkins began his first full season in charge of QPR, and was handed his debut by the then player-manager in December 1995.
But it wasn’t just any game – it was an away game at Old Trafford against league leaders Manchester United: probably one of the more daunting places for a teenager to make his bow.
Quashie recalls being told “I didn’t even get to think about it because all you said was your number 18, here are your boots and shin pads , just go and play, have fun and treat it like your over the park with your mates,” but that’s not the best think Wilkins did that day.
In an Instagram tribute, the 39-year-old explained how his boss went above and beyond that day to make sure Quashie’s mum got to see him make his debut against the likes of Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs.
“I was given a chance by Ray Wilkins one of the legends of the game and to this day you are the first person I mention when it comes to football and that will never change,” Quashie writes.
“You will be missed so much not just in the football world but as a real human being with such class.”
Quashie is far from the only ex-pro to share his memories, with his and Wilkins’ ex-QPR teammate Danny Dichio paying tribute to the “father figure”.
Joe Cole – who was coached by Wilkins at Chelsea – also remembered the good times.
Meanwhile Paul Gascoigne, who played against Wilkins during his career and succeeded him in England’s midfield, had a tribute of his own.