In March 1980, Fulham Football Club announced the signing of a 23-year-old midfielder by the name of Ray Lewington.
The youngster made his name down the road at Chelsea and had quickly became a regular in the Blues’ engine room since making his debut as a teenager in the 1975/76 campaign, playing every game the following season when they won promotion to the top flight.
The subsequent two seasons saw the Chelsea team begin to break up following the departure of manager Eddie McCreadie, and in early 1979 Lewington made the decision to try his luck across the Atlantic with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
He was in good company, sharing a midfield with World Cup winner Alan Ball, and during his time in Canada the Whitecaps won the Soccer Bowl for the first time. (They beat Rodney Marsh’s Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Final).
Lewington was soon back in his native London, though, when he joined Wimbledon. He featured 30 times for the Dons before he was convinced to join Fulham a matter of months later in a £50,000 deal.
The Whites were not enjoying a good season in 1979/80, and were languishing at the root of the Division Two table when Lewington arrived, with Bobby Campbell’s men on a 17-match winless run.
Lewington’s debut for the Club coincided with a rare win, though, as Fulham defeated promotion-chasing West Ham United 3-2 at Upton Park courtesy of a Teddy Maybank strike and a brace from Geoff Banton.
The inclusion of Lewington in the side saw Fulham win four of their last seven matches as they desperately fought to avoid the drop but the damage had already been done and the Whites slipped into the third tier along with Burnley and Charlton Athletic.
Despite missing the first half of the following campaign, Lewington went on to establish himself as an ever-present member of the Fulham midfield, helping the Club to promotion in 1981/82, and almost doing likewise a year later.
He departed for Sheffield United in 1985 but was not absent for long – returning to Craven Cottage to become our youngest-ever manager at the age of 29. He combined his coaching duties with playing and finished his career with 276 Fulham appearances to his name.
His time in charge of Fulham was turbulent, though, with plenty of problems off the field causing distraction, and he eventually left the Club in 1994, having initially dropped down to work as a number two under Alan Dicks and then Don Mackay.
He was back at Fulham little more than a decade later as a Reserve Team Coach, and went on to occupy several roles until his departure in July 2012.Nobody could begrudge Lewington the opportunity that had presented itself, as he took up a full-time role as assistant to former Whites Manager Roy Hodgson with the England national side – a position he still occupies today.