Arsenal - Pat Rice: A Tribute
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Pat Rice: A Tribute

It`s been an open secret for some time that Arsenal`s Assistant Manager Pat Rice will be retiring at the end of this season. This was confirmed last night as a number of players tweeted pictures of an official club function in his honour, adding their thanks for his service. The Belfast born Arsenal man has always been a quiet, studied character and rarely gives interviews to the media. Indeed, it looks as though he wanted to eschew any fuss by announcing his retirement in advance of the last home game. As a result of his taciturn nature, his 44 years of service if often under credited. So here follows a short biopic of Arsenal`s mystery man.

Rice was born in Belfast on 17th March, 1949 but soon relocated to Finsbury Park, where many Irish immigrants set up home in the post war years. Rice went to school in the borough and earned pocket money working in his mum`s greengrocer store on Gillespie Road, adjacent to Highbury. Rice was a keen footballer and once work was over, he and his friends used to kick a football around the quiet streets of Avenell Road. One day, a 15 year old Rice began idly kicking a ball up against the walls of the old East Stand. After about half an hour a club official emerged through the doors of the Marble Halls and summoned Rice. Sheepishly expecting a telling off for his antics, Rice reluctantly walked over. To his astonishment, the stuffy club official asked him if he could attend a trial.

Details of who exactly had been watching Rice or had thought to ask him for a trial are sketchy. But the bottom line is, the young Ulsterman took his chance and was signed on schoolboy terms in 1964. He made steady progress through the Youth and Reserve sides as a sturdy, if unspectacular right back, making his full debut as a callow 18 year old in December 1967, a 2-1 League Cup win over Burnley at Turf Moor. Though manager Bertie Mee liked his quiet work ethic, Rice spent much of the next three seasons in the Reserves, with Peter Storey the favoured right back. Though he did make his debut for Northern Ireland in 1968, his first of 49 caps for his country.

Rice watched on from the sidelines as the club secured its first silverware for 17 years with the 1969-70 Fairs Cup win. But that summer, Mee fell upon a plan to convert the uncompromising Storey into a defensive midfield player, to add more steel to Arsenal`s midfield at the expense of the flair of Sammels. As he had 6 years earlier, Rice took his chance. The following season, he became the club`s first choice right back, forging a resilient alliance with McLintock, Simpson and McNab at the back, with the fearless Wilson in behind them, Storey shielding them with gritted teeth. He became a significant part of the side that won Arsenal`s first ever F.A. Cup and League Double in 1970-71. Rice remained Arsenal`s first choice right back for the whole decade.

In fact, he was an ever present in three seasons in the 70s, in 71-72- where he was an F.A. Cup runner up, 75-76 and 76-77. As Mee dismantled the Double side and Arsenal were closer to relegation than silverware, Rice was one of the few constants. When his ex Arsenal teammate Terry Neill became manager in 1976, he made his compatriot Rice club captain. Rice captained the team to three consecutive F.A. Cup Finals- in 1978, 1979 and 1980, as well as the 1980 Cup Winners Cup Final. Though he would only lead his side up the steps to silverware once, as captain in the 5 minute Cup Final in 1979. He became the first Arsenal player to play in 5 F.A. Cup Finals for the club- a record that has been since equalled by Ray Parlour and David Seaman- though never surpassed.

In 1980, with the bitter taste of two Cup Final defeats in the same week, Rice left Highbury at the age of 31. He had won 2 F.A. Cups and a League title, having made 528 appearances and bowed out as club captain. His young compatriot John Devine was by now 22 and considered ready for the first team. Rice went on to make 137 appearances for Graham Taylor`s Watford during the most illustrious period of their history. He scored the Hornets first top flight goal in August 1982 against Everton. In the 1983-84 season, his legs began to give and he became a bit part figure as Watford made it to the 1984 F.A. Cup Final, which Rice watched from the stand. That summer he decided to retire from playing.

Rice was not a man for idleness however (though a 1970s footballer salary wouldn`t have left much room to retire to one`s garden as Voltaire would have it). He rejoined the club of his life as coach of the Youth Team. It was a position he held for twelve years. Don Howe- who had coached Rice as a player- made the appointment. Old ties remained as Rice`s ex teammate George Graham was appointed to the hot seat in 1986. Graham set about reconnecting the club with its traditions and, obviously, felt having Rice as part of the backroom staff would only aid that initiative. Rice won two Youth Cups in 1988 and 1994 and oversaw a crop of talent that would emerge to win Arsenal the league title in 1989.

The likes of Michael Thomas, Paul Merson and David Rocastle passed through his care as a youth coach, with Kevin Campbell, David Hillier, Ian Selley, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, Paul Dickov and Steve Morrow all serving various levels of first team distinction having been coached by Rice. In 1996 he found himself at the centre of great upheaval for the club. The sacking of Bruce Rioch was the catalyst for a maelstrom of activity. Assistant Manager Stewart Houston became Caretaker Manager and Rice was promoted to backfill his place. A month later, Houston, aware that he wasn`t in the running for the full time job, also resigned with manager elect Arsene Wenger determined to see out his deal in Japan. Rice was suddenly Caretaker Manager. On top of that, the club captain admitted to the press that he was an alcoholic.

Rice`s steady hand kept the ship on course though. He won all three league games of his Caretaker reign, with a 4-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, a 2-0 away win at Middlesbrough and a 2-0 home win against Sunderland. The only blot on his copy book was a 3-2 home defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in a UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg tie. Determined to maintain connection with the club`s heritage, Wenger immediately appointed Rice as his number 2, with Boro Primorac appointed as First Team Coach. Rice`s quiet work ethic earned him Arsene`s trust very quickly, as well as his capabilities as a coach. Rice has held the position for 16 years, overseeing two more Doubles and the unbeaten season, as well as a further five F.A. Cup Finals, bringing his tally as an Arsenal man to an astonishing 11 F.A. Cup Finals in the employ of the club.

Rice holds the joint distinction with Bob Wilson of having been involved in all three of Arsenal`s domestic Doubles. He has lifted a league title and two F.A. Cups as a player, four F.A. Cups and three league titles as a coach and won 2 F.A. Youth Cups as Youth Team Manager. He was part of a backroom staff that oversaw League Cup wins in 1987 and 1993 as well as league wins in 1989- sitting in the dugout at Anfield that fateful night of May 26th- and 1991 as well as the 1994 Cup Winners Cup. The final that night in Copenhagen saw four of his Youth Team graduates in the starting line up and a further three on the bench. In total, Rice has been on Arsenal`s books, in one way or another, in 24 different Cup Finals (25 if you factor in the 1993 F.A. Cup Final replay) and 6 league title winning campaigns. He appeared for the club 528 times as a player and will be in the dugout as Arsenal`s number 2 on Sunday for the final, and 903rd time (having taken in 4 games as Manager too), in a total of 44 years service to Arsenal Football Club. Those statistics are barely comparable for any other figure in our history. For that alone, he deserves our unbridled respect, our congratulations and our thanks. All the best in your retirement Pat. LD.

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Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday May 10 2012

Time: 11:29AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Legend. No other words describe the bloke or do him justice. I just hope his chronic knee condition doesn't stop him earning a well deserved retirement.
Scotch Eggs Rule
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10/05/2012 11:52:00

earning?? *Enjoying.
Scotch Eggs Rule
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10/05/2012 11:57:00

Will we ever see someone like him again? Legend does not do justice.
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10/05/2012 13:16:00

Spotted for a trial after kicking a ball against the East Stand. He must have been shooting from 40 yards to get that sort of invite! Anyway, lucky for Arsenal that he did and when highlighted like this, his achievements are outstanding. Thank you Pat.
Sir Henry
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10/05/2012 14:01:00

Finally submitted to the inevitable then Scotchy mate? Is that the end of London Gooner, or is it that you found using different usernames on other sites starting to get confusing? Welcome to the the slow, downhill slide of life mate! ;-)

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10/05/2012 14:14:00

Arsenal was indeed the club of Pat Rice's life. Thanks for all the memories.
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10/05/2012 14:54:00

Will we ever see someone like him again? Legend does not do justice Sajit - You can't say that just after I called him a legend lol
Scotch Eggs Rule
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10/05/2012 15:00:00

Spuds - Anything more than one username and I'm *****ed! I have enough trouble remembering my password...
Scotch Eggs Rule
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10/05/2012 15:00:00

Same here, Scotch Eggs. Did you clock that dick on the DM basterdising your username with the moniker ScotchEggsChokers? Boy does he write some utter garbage!

See that Steve Bould is Part Rice's replacement. Will he be as good as Rice has been in his tenure, in your opinion guys?

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10/05/2012 15:37:00

The word "legend" is bandied around with frivolous abandon. We're fortunate at Arsenal Football Club to have a great many people connected with the club that can genuinely be considered legends ... Pat Rice is one of those people. Enjoy your retirement Pat!
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10/05/2012 15:45:00

Spuds - be interesting to see what impact Bould will make. If we win the title...
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10/05/2012 15:45:00

Spuds - You get tossers everywhere mate, especially what are basically un-monitored public message boards. I hope people are not too stupid to realise it ain't me posting, but I won't hold my breathe. It's amazing how you can put yourself out there to be shot at and let everyone know who you support yet even with the anonymity the internet provides, people are still too cowardly or snide to do anything other than take a dig at peoples opinions without giving up who they support or anything else. Hence why I'm slowly giving it up now as it's a pain the 'arris to be honest. I much prefer places like this where you know whose posting and what they're about (footballistically speaking). Atleast that is immediate common ground and the basis to build dialogue and verse. Not constantly fighting off some pack of ignorant douchebags who probably don't even like football but are just there for a wind up. Just don't tell anyone I get on with a spuddy.....
Scotch Eggs Rule
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10/05/2012 15:57:00

As for Bouldy, well he was one of the main men at Arsenal when Sp*rs really were also rans in the league. Let's hope with his help we can get back to being that far ahead of you again, as I don't like you whipper snapper, upstarts being this close to us one single bit ;o)
Scotch Eggs Rule
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10/05/2012 15:59:00

clearly Rice is an arsenal legend and has been a fantastic servant, however I actually see this as a positive for Arsenal in that it wil freshen things up at the top and perhaps also give wenger a more active assistant, as Pat has clearly struggled for a couple of years
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10/05/2012 16:27:00

Thanks, Pat, for the long years of service. Absolutely loyal to the Club, a rare quality these days.
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10/05/2012 18:28:00

With his profile chronicled like this, the man was exemplary and a club Collosus of sorts; the paradox is his gentle mien and rare humility in serving the club as No. 2 for so long, after having been caretaker manager in the past. I hope he enjoys retirement and gets his just reward in life.
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10/05/2012 18:37:00

*is exemplary*.
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10/05/2012 18:39:00

Pat Rice - an Arsenal legend. This kind of association with one club will probably not happen again. He got a lot of flak for not giving honest opinions (all perceived by us who don't know details) to Wenger, but Wenger has admitted that he has not always followed Rice's suggestions. Best of luck Pat, hope retirement works well for him.
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10/05/2012 19:15:00

Truly a great man of Arsenal FC. His involvement and steadfast loyalty to the club is often understated, and he seems to be a scapegoat for our failings recently, which I find absurd as nobody outside the club actually knows how Wenger and Rice operate apart from what they tell us. His legend should live on, I think a physical reminder like a statue or naming a stand after him would not be a bad idea. Thank you very much Pat Rice!
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10/05/2012 23:06:00

Ivan G sums him up brilliantly - "There are certain people who embody the club so perfectly that it's impossible to know if the Club created them or if they created the Club". Also I seem to remember Ivan G giving an example of Patrice's commitment to the club and its image once in one of those Arsenal 125 videos. He recounted a story about Pat Rice sitting in a train and there was a crossword puzzle lying there next to him. Apparently some scumbag had written swear words on it. Pat Rice took it and kept it in his bag lest anybody accuse him of writing those swear words and bringing the club into disrepute. That's how much Pat Rice loves Arsenal. What a legend.
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11/05/2012 15:50:00

So many of the concerns regarding Pat Rice have been clarified by player tributes. He wasnt a quiet, yes man at all.
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11/05/2012 17:25:00


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