By Chris Morris (@USAGooner13)
From club captain to trusted managerial assistant and now Member of the Order of the British Empire. On New Year’s Day, Pat Rice was honored by Queen Elizabeth for his service in sport, namely his 44 years at Arsenal. It was a proud day for the humble Northern Irishman, one in which he is no doubt deserving. From his arrival at the club to his retirement, Rice gave his all.
Indeed, it was his hard work and determination that saw him become the first choice right back and eventually captain. Over the course of fourteen years in the senior squad, he amassed 528 appearances including a club record 5 FA Cup finals. He was part of the first double winning squad in 1970-71 and lead Arsenal to FA Cup glory in 1979. Rice would leave the North London club after the 1980 season, joining Watford until he hung up his boots in 1984. But he wouldn’t leave football completely.
The very next season, Rice took over as Arsenal’s youth team coach. It was a post he would helm for twelve years and see him steer the young Gunners to two FA Youth Cup triumphs. Upon the dismissal of Bruce Rioch and the resignation of Stewart Houston, Rice was tapped as care taker manager in September 1996. He managed the side for just four matches, three of those victories, before Arsène Wenger was appointed manager at the end of the month. Rice was immediately named his assistant.
For the next sixteen years, he was ever present at Wenger’s side. A stalwart supporter and trusted advisor of the Professor, he never aspired to be manager. Content to serve on the training pitch, where he was motivator and teacher, he helped to instill in the players the tenants of Wenger’s football philosophy. Alongside the manager, he saw the team rise to the top of English football and helped usher in an unprecedented level of success for Arsenal football club.
As player and coach, he had a hand in four League titles and six FA Cup trophies, including all three double winning campaigns and the Invincibles squad of the 2003-04 season. His exploits and service to the club make Pat Rice an undeniable legend in Arsenal red and white, it is fitting then that the Queen will be honoring the man in the shorts for everything he has done. A hearty congratulations to Pat Rice, MBE, it is most deserved.