Ancelotti hails departed Wilkins

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Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti paid tribute to departed assistant Ray Wilkins but insisted it was business as usual ahead of their Barclays Premier League clash with Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Ancelotti was careful with his words over the shock departure of Wilkins and claimed he had nothing but admiration for the 54-year-old.

"He did a fantastic job. He helped me and the team win the double. So the first thing is to say a lot of thanks to him," said the Italian.

Chelsea revealed they would not be renewing Wilkins' contract on Thursday and that he would be leaving the club with immediate effect but Ancelotti was reluctant to embroider the decision with any real detail during the club's pre-match press conference at Cobham.

Wilkins was watching a reserve game against Bayern Munich at Cobham on Thursday when he was asked to attend a meeting with the club's chief executive Ron Gourlay, where his employment was terminated.

Ancelotti added: "He is my friend. I have a fantastic relationship with him, and I will have a fantastic relationship with him. The club made this decision.

"It was a difficult decision for everyone, but I have respect for this decision. I have trust in all the staff who are working with me, but we have to move on now. We have to look forward and focus on the next game. It will be an important season for us, and it's important to move on.

"He knew English football very well and was experienced as an assistant. He did his job very well. I spoke with the players, just to tell them that the club made this decision.

"We have to move on and stay focused. The players are focused on this season. They will continue to be focused. Ray did not say goodbye to the players yesterday, but he will have the opportunity to come here and say hello to everyone."

The club are now weighing up their options and there remains the possibility of a promotion from within with first-team coach Paul Clement favourite for the job following his rapid rise from youth and reserve team coaching.

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