Who doesn’t know the bespectacled man standing by Arsene Wenger during the games and shouting instructions to the team ? Patrick James Rice or “Pat” Rice as he is fondly known among gooners around the world has hung up his boots after 44 years of relentless service to the club he loved. The assistant manager of Arsenal since 1996 was in the dugout for the last time as the gunners visited the Hawthrones in their final and crucial game of the season to clinch third place and secure champion’s league qualification.
Pat Rice having dedicated 44 years of his life to serving Arsenal F.C. and the entire footballing fraternity is one fueled by passion and love for the game. An exceptional player himself , he started out in the arsenal’s youth academy as a 15 year old and went professional in just two years and made a successful debut in the side’s 2-1 victory against Burnley in the league cup, sadly he wasn’t a regular then and made only 16 appearances in three seasons. The following season he was promoted to a regular starter and Arsenal went on to win the League and the F.A. cup double. Though predominantly a right back he was willing to adapt to other positions for the benefit of the team, he played in central midfield to help arsenal win the double. He even captained the arsenal to 3 consecutive F.A. cup finals and winning one making him one of the three arsenal players to have played in 5 F.A. cup finals (The other two are David Seaman and Ray Parlour). He eventually left Arsenal when he was 31 years old and having played 528 games and moved to Watford for 2 seasons where he captained them and got them promoted. He then retired and his inseparable love to arsenal made him return as the coach of the youth team in 1984.
Pat Rice stayed coached the youth team , where his journey with arsenal began , for 12 long years before he took on the reins of the first team after Stewart Houston resigned. He was in charge of three league games and won them all before a previously unheard of Frenchman from a Japanese team arrived. Arsene Wenger recognized Pat Rice’s work and kept him on as his assistant. Ever since the duo have stuck together like Jai and Veeru from sholay through thick and thin and forged a team, which is now the best team in the 20 years of the premier league , to go 49 games unbeaten in what is arguably the best league in the world. Rice also had the honour of being part of all three of the domestic doubles won by the club( one as player and two as a coach).
On May 5th , Rice announced that he would step down from the post of assistant manager due to a bad knee which restricted him during coaching and he would not give less than 100 % for the club. A man with his wealth of experience as a player and as a coach wouldn’t have any difficulty moving to another team for money or fame as some of the players of the team moved(see Na$ri) but stuck to his team and was always willing to work from the shadows and shied away from the limelight at every opportunity. He’s displayed loyalty and devotion of the highest form and inspired and will continue to inspire many gunners. His fairytale with arsenal came to an end with his side securing the all important 3rd place for champion’s league qualification after their worst start in 58 years. He may not have won many trophies as he should have but he’s inspired and won over the hearts of probably every gooner around the world. In all fairness, I would be disappointed if he doesn’t have a statue outside the emirates, such is the legend of Pat Rice.