Abramovich sanctioned Wilkins' exit from Chelsea - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Abramovich sanctioned Wilkins' exit from Chelsea

Assistant pays price for last season's Inter defeat in show of strength from owner

The shock decision by Chelsea yesterday not to renew the contract of their assistant manager, Ray Wilkins, was sanctioned by owner Roman Abramovich after the club told manager Carlo Ancelotti that changes had to be made to the coaching structure.

The decision took many at the club by surprise with its suddenness – Wilkins, 54, was watching a reserve-team game at the club's Cobham training ground when the news was announced yesterday. Those at the game said that Wilkins spoke with the reserve-team coach, Steve Holland, during the match against a Bayern Munich XI, telling him that he would be leaving the club after the game.

It is understood that the Chelsea hierarchy believe that Wilkins had outlived his usefulness at the club. Wilkins is a popular figure with players, staff and fans, who has had a 37-year association on and off with Chelsea since his debut as a 17-year-old, and the club are aware that his departure will not be their most popular decision.

The move has been explained internally as one where Wilkins' role at the club no longer fits the brief he was given when he arrived in September 2008 as assistant to the then manager Luiz Felipe Scolari following the departure of Steve Clarke to West Ham.

At that time the club needed a coach – ideally an Englishman – who knew the club, the players, the Premier League and was comfortable with the English press to help Scolari find his feet in English football. Wilkins was the ideal fit and when Scolari was sacked by Abramovich in February 2009, Wilkins stayed on to help Guus Hiddink's interim spell in charge to the end of the season.

When Ancelotti arrived in the summer of last year with the minimum of Italian staff – his assistant Bruno Demichelis is his sole major appointment – it made sense that Wilkins, who played at Milan and spoke Italian, should stay. It is understood that Chelsea staff are now being told that Wilkins' original brief, to help while Ancelotti settled in and learnt English, has now passed and it is time for a new approach.

Despite Chelsea's Premier League and FA Cup Double last season, there is still frustration among the club's hierarchy at the failure to make progress in the Champions League during that campaign, especially given that they were eliminated by Internazionale, coached by their former manager Jose Mourinho, in the first knockout round.

That result was a great source of disappointment to the club's Russian owner. When Wilkins' contract as assistant manager came up for renewal over the last two months, the decision was made at the very top of the club that there should be changes among Ancelotti's coaching staff – with the Italian just one part of the consultation process.

Ancelotti was told that the decision was being made, but was not given the power to veto it. It is not clear how hard the Italian fought for Wilkins to stay in the job. It is understood that the manager was with Wilkins at the training ground when he was told of the club's decision over the phone by the chief executive, Ron Gourlay.

The decision to allow Wilkins to leave was all the more surprising because it came in what has been a relatively smooth period in the club's history, with Chelsea top of the League by four points and poised to qualify easily for the Champions League knockout rounds. Having built on the success of last season, they had looked a more stable ship than ever before in the Abramovich era.

Gourlay was instructed to wield the axe yesterday, telling Wilkins that he would not be offered a new contract and would be allowed to leave straight away. Gourlay was not the instigator of the decision and it is not even being presented as a cost-cutting measure, because a replacement is expected to be recruited from outside the club.

Ancelotti will go ahead with his usual Friday press conference this afternoon at Cobham. Ever the pragmatist, he is expected to react philosophically to the decision and project it as simply "one of those things" that happen in football.

In his recent autobiography Ancelotti described Wilkins as an integral part of Chelsea's success in breaking the grip that Manchester United had on the Premier League for the previous three seasons. Ancelotti said: "Ray is one of those select few, always present, noble in spirit, a real blue-blood, Chelsea flows in his veins. His heart beats in two languages, and that helped me. Without him, we couldn't have won a thing, and in particular we would not have started the year at supersonic speed."

Wilkins is understood to be sufficiently well off not to have to seek another job in football. A smooth performer in front of the cameras, he will be in demand for punditry work. However, as a resident of the Surrey area in which Chelsea's training ground is based it will no doubt hurt this popular figure.

Chelsea released a brief statement which did nothing to explain the decision. Gourlay said: "On behalf of everyone at the club I would like to thank Ray for everything he has done for Chelsea football club. We all wish him well for the future."

Wilkins' Chelsea career

Chelsea playing career: 1973-79 - 198 games (34 goals)

Assistant manager: 1998-2000, 2008-10

At 17, Ray "Butch" Wilkins arrived at Stamford Bridge and quickly became the club's youngest captain at the age of 18. He led the Blues back to the First Division and was voted Chelsea Player of the Year in both 1976 and 1977.

He returned as assistant to Gianluca Vialli in 1998, helping the club win the FA Cup in 2000 before departing early in the next season. He returned for a third spell in 2008 under Luiz Felipe Scolari, staying on as the club won a Premier League title and two FA Cups.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news

Watch this commuter make a mad 320-metre, 75-step dash to work
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week