By Tony Alvarez
Despite being well known by Arsenal fans and perhaps fans of a lot of other clubs up and down the country Arsenal yesterday officially announced that Pat Rice the clubs long term assistant manager and even longer servant would step down after Sunday’s clash withWest Brom.
He joined the club as a youth-team player in 1964 before turning professional two years later and went on to make more than 500 appearances for the Gunners, captaining the side to FA Cup victory in 1979.
Rice left Arsenal for a four-year spell withWatford in 1980 before returning to the club as a youth-team coach.
Many people connected with the club have nothing but good things to say about Rice who apparently still plans to attend the Emirates as a fan, Wenger said of Rice “I would like him to forgive me for the bad moments I’ve given him as well but he has been a constant loyal supporter and I’m just very grateful and privileged to have him at my side for such a long time.”
Arsenal are currently posting farewell messages form people associated with the club and asking fans to get involved, I think it still shows the fire in Rice’s belly and his hunger for the game that Tomas Rosicky had this to say “Hi Pat, I am very sad to see you go. Every morning I will miss that 10 minutes before training starts when you come into the dressing room and shout at us! I enjoyed working with you for all the time I have been here and the whole team will miss you. Thank you, and all the best.” It may be over exaggerated because he is leaving the club but when you have Arsenal legends cueing up to thank and praise you, you know he’s an important part of everything Arsenal represent, Dennis Bergkamp is one of the most talented and classy Footballers I have ever witnessed and all he could do in his message was thank Rice.
I am too young to remember Rice as a player but ever since I can remember he has been the assistant and chief motivator. I also believe I am right in saying he has never lost a match when he has been placed in charge either due to suspensions or between the gaps in managers
He is going to have a tough job on his hands as Rice has left him big boots to fill, so often you see Wenger on his seat in the dugout with Rice on the touchline barking out orders, in effect it will now be Bould’s job to make sure the superstars are fired up.
People often I feel underestimate the role Rice plays in the Arsenal machine, despite his age he does a lot of work with the team on the training ground and still takes the match day warm ups, even as a supporter who watched every game without fail on TV for years I didn’t realise how much Rice did on the touchline until I was a regular attendee.
I think Bould will struggle initially no doubt he will be a great help to Wenger he too is a motivator and a leader that players will respect he has also shown through the youth team that he is tactically strong, I think once he finds his feet he will be fine, but that could take him a while.
Will Arsenal miss Rice? Is Bould the correct man to replace Rice? Will there be a transitional period?