Everton Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ray Wilson.
Unquestionably one of the finest footballers to wear the royal blue jersey, Ray passed away on Tuesday evening, aged 83, at The Bell House care home in Huddersfield.
The thoughts of everybody at Everton Football Club are with Ray’s wife Pat, sons Russell and Neil, and all of his family and friends.
Wilson’s status as a Goodison Park great was underlined when he was named Everton Giant for 2002.
He joined Everton from Huddersfield Town in 1964 and two years later would be an instrumental figure in a wonderful summer for his club and country.
A pioneering left-back, described by former teammate and fellow Everton Giant Joe Royle as a "maestro" and “the best of his kind at the time”, Ray was an integral component of the Blues team which dramatically overturned a two-goal deficit to beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 in the 1966 FA Cup final.
Ray was celebrating at Wembley again 11 weeks later as part of the England team that defeated West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup final. He represented his country on 63 occasions and reached his half-century of caps in England’s World Cup semi-final victory over Portugal at the national stadium.
Appointed an MBE for services to football in 2000, Ray would have spent longer than five years with Everton were it not for his inherent loyalty and integrity, traits which would be recognised by countless former colleagues and his family and friends. Ray and Pat celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary last December.
“I had a trial with Huddersfield as a kid and there was an Everton scout watching me," he once revealed.
"I got a letter from Everton offering me a deal but I felt loyal to Huddersfield. But I remember looking around Goodison properly for the first time after I had joined and thought to myself, 'My word, what have I been missing out on all these years, I should have been here years ago.’”
Ray played 154 matches for Everton before leaving for Oldham Athletic in 1969.
“He loved it at Goodison, absolutely loved it,” said wife Pat last year. “He still does. If they are on television, that is it. He sits there and watches it, transfixed.”
Ray is equally adored at Huddersfield, where he was handed his debut by manager Bill Shankly in a match at Manchester United in October 1955, shortly after completing two years’ national service in Egypt. Born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, he worked as an apprentice railwayman after leaving school.
He would play 283 games for the Yorkshire club, who wore a kit designed in his honour during the 2016/17 season, when, fittingly, Huddersfield were promoted to the Premier League.
When Everton met Huddersfield in a Premier League match in April, the fixture was officially designated as Ray Wilson Day.
Ray moved from Oldham to Bradford City in 1970 and briefly managed the Valley Parade club on a caretaker basis the following year.
He ended his football career in 1971 and subsequently worked as an undertaker for more than 25 years. He spent his retirement with Pat in the couple’s beloved Yorkshire.
Royle remembered Wilson’s “great smile” and talked of a visionary footballer, reserving suitably reverential tones for a man who remains the only Everton player to have won the World Cup while at the Club.
“You had a speedy ex-winger who certainly was not going to be beaten for pace,” said Royle. “Ray led the onset of a new breed of full-backs. Prior to Ray, they had all been sentinels, big, tall lads. Maybe third centre-backs, rather than full-backs.
“He is a World Cup winner and played in the last England team that had four, maybe five, world class players… and he was certainly one of those.
“He was the best of his kind at the time. And he was a top guy, always there with a smile or a helpful word. I played a few reserve games with Ray and it was like listening to a maestro. He knew his stuff.”