There was an excellent interview in the Telegraph yesterday by Henry Winter of Ray Lewington. What a career he has had. It detailed his years as player and manager at Fulham, where times were so hard that his wife Ann had to wash the team kit. He is now the respected number two to Roy Hodgson. He is a total football man and I would say his finest quality is his rapport with players. There is an iconic photo of him pulling up an exhausted Zoltan Gera from the pitch after Fulham lost the Europa final. Roy and Ray took us from relegation candidates to Europa finalist in two seasons.
I can recall Ray ‘s so, a carrot-mopped toddler in the 80s. He went onto to play 500 games for MK Dons much in the style of his father, a busy energetic midfielder always prepared to graft. Ray became player-manager aged 28 and he will admit the job was too much for him. However he became part of the Cottage furniture and it was an inspired move when he joined the Chris Coleman coaching team. Mike Kelly was Roy Hodgson’s number two of choice, but after a hip operation the esteemed goalkeeping coach took retirement and Ray stepped up to the plate as Roy’s second in command.
One senses a good feeling in the England camp, with Steve Gerrard a trusted captain on the pitch, and Roy saying the right thngs off it whilst imposing his enormous orgnaisational skills. We are not going in gung-ho with the normal war-like press adjectives and aspirations. Our problem is that every time when we come up against an international heavyweight we invariably lose, normally on penalties. I can foresee Roy, who managed Inter Milan and Udinese, getting a canny draw against Italy in the first game but it’s Uruguay – with Cavani, Forlan and probably Suarez – who will test our defence.
I bet it all seems a long way away when training was jogging over Putney Bridge.