Chelsea begin search for Ray Wilkins replacement

Chelsea are on the lookout for a new assistant manager following the sudden departure of Carlo Ancelotti's right-hand man Ray Wilkins.

Club legend Wilkins was in the dugout for yesterday's win over Fulham but his long association with the Blues came to an abrupt end less than 24 hours later via a brief statement on the official website.

The announcement stated the club had opted not to renew Wilkins' contract and that he would leave the club immediately.

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay followed up with a brief tribute to the former club captain, adding: "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."

The brevity of that gesture is notable given that only last month the Blues' used their website to host a lengthy two-part homage to Wilkins' Chelsea career.

There was also little suggestion, in public at least, that Wilkins' time at Stamford Bridge was coming to an end..

In an interview dated October 29, the 54-year-old told "I think our league is fantastic and long may it continue. I still get excited about a game, like I did 37 years ago, and I will keep doing so."

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has publicly praised Wilkins in the past for playing a key role in easing him in to the manager's office last season.

Wilkins once played for AC Milan and his ability to converse in both English and Italian was cited as crucial to Ancelotti's early triumphs.

Indeed, the former Rossoneri boss said in the foreword to his assistant's recent autobiography that Chelsea owed last season's title success in large part to Wilkins.

He will now be on the lookout for a man to offer similar input, while Chelsea will also be eager to fill the void of fan favourite.

Wilkins remains a hugely popular figure amongst the team's followers and the appointment of a figure with a similar stature would go some way to dulling their disappointment.

Gianfranco Zola is currently out of work following his sacking as West Ham boss and although an assistant's job would be a step down, he spent some of the best years of his career with Chelsea and is held in the highest esteem by supporters.

Like Wilkins he speaks both languages and may be tempted by a job that could put him in line to be Ancelotti's eventual successor.

Other names sure to be given an airing include former Blues assistant Steve Clarke, who followed Zola out of Upton Park earlier this year worked as Jose Mourinho's deputy at Stamford Bridge, Brighton manager Gus Poyet - like Zola a former Chelsea player, and Paolo Maldini - a stalwart of Ancelotti's Milan years.

Wilkins captained Chelsea at 18 and spent six years with the club before enjoying spells with Manchester United, AC Milan and QPR among others. He returned as part of Gianluca Vialli's backroom team before the Italian was dismissed in 2000 and rejoined to work under Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008.

When the Brazilian left the following year he briefly took over as a caretaker boss and stayed to serve interim manager Guus Hiddink and Ancelotti.

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