Over the years, we have seen a number of players and managers come and go at Arsenal football club, but the passion and heart will always remain. However, there is one man’s desire and love for the club (should he leave of course) that could change the dynamics of the North London outfit, none other than the legendary Pat Rice.
Arsene Wenger’s right-hand man has hinted that this could be his final year at Arsenal, the club where he started his professional career back in 1964. The 61-year-old joined the Gunners at the age of 15 as an apprentice. After 2 years, Rice turned professional, having worked his way through the club’s youth and reserve teams.
In December 1967, Rice made his first-team debut for Arsenal against Burnley, which ended in a 2-1 victory for the Gunners. The right-back got his first Northern Ireland call-up against Israel in September 1968.
Peter Storey was Arsenal’s first choice right back, which meant Pat Rice was more of a bit-part player for almost 3 seasons. So much so that Rice only managed to make 16 appearances during these 3 years. However, at the start of the 1970-71 season, Rice took Storey’s place at right-back after Storey was moved into midfield. At this point Rice was a regular figure for the arsenal side which went on to win the League and F.A cup (Double) that season. Of all the double winning sides in the 70’s, the full-back was the only one that remained in the club the longest, who went on to become the club’s captain. Whilst wearing the armband, Pat Rice led Arsenal to F.A Cup glory after beating Manchester United in 1979. He also lost two finals in 1978 and 1980.
He is one of only three Arsenal players to have played in five different F.A Cup finals, these being in 1970-71, 1971-72, 1977-78, 1978-79, and the 1979-80 seasons. The other two were David Seaman and Ray Parlour.
In 1980, (having played 528 games for Arsenal) Rice left for Watford and helped the club gain promotion the following season. After four seasons with the Hornets, Rice rejoined the Gunners as a youth team coach. He held this position for 12 years and guided them to two F.A Youth Cup’s in 1987-88 and 1993-94.
Upon the arrival of current manager Arsene Wenger in 1996, Rice was promoted to Assistant manager. The partnership of Wenger and Rice achieved great success in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The doubles of 1997-98 and 2001-02 as well as the invincible season in 2003-04 were particular highlights.
Pat Rice is a true legend of the club, and whatever he decides come the end of the season, Arsenal fans will forever remember his name and view him as an iconic figure for the Gunners.
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