Pat Rice: So Long And Thanks For All The Cups
The usual Friday column by Big Al will be here tomorrow; today I wanted to pass my own respects to Pat Rice following the confirmation of his retirement.
It is an employment record with few peers in modern football. Pat Rice retires at the end of this season, 90 minutes of his footballing career remains. From here on in, he is one of us. I have never met the man but those who have suggest he is as much an Arsenal fan as he is an employee; perhaps more. He will be better connected of course. And probably better seats and given his record, deservedly so.
League champion, double FA Cup winner; three times a losing finalist in the FA Cup, once in the Cup Winners Cup. More than 650 first team appearances for Arsenal and Watford in a playing career spanning eighteen years, from a fresh faced youth in 1966 until 1984 with Watford. From his winning debut over Burnley en route to Wembley in 1968 to the ignominious final competitive game in the 0 – 5 defeat at Middlesbrough on May 19th, 1980, in what was also Liam Brady’s final first XI appearance; a happy birthday to me indeed.
Club captain, an international captain who nearly crossed the rubicon of 50 caps when that was an achievement. As captain of The Arsenal, I am sure that the 1979 FA Cup Final (subject of tomorrow’s Arsenal On This Day) was the highlight. It was the only trophy he lifted leading the first XI although how the 1978 and 1980 finals were lost is still baffling.
He wasted no time in practising for this moment as this photo shows
When he looks back though, Pat Rice can turn to anyone listening: 1971 double? I was there. 1998 double? I was there. 2002 double? I was there. At every turn his quiet contributions to silverware can be seen from the FA Youth Cup to the FA Cup.Everything about his career was about loyalty, consistency, hard work from his defensive duties to co-ordinating his reactalight glasses and shorts combination.
That carried on through to his coaching career which was no less successful. The path trodden by the popular Irishman has been followed by his successor, Steve Bould. The central defender is described as being the saviour of the Arsenal defensive system, routinely ridden roughshod over by the current manager and his staff. Quite what position these detractors think Pat played in I am not sure.
Had they any shame, they would realise how shameful the behaviour in using Pat Rice as the scapegoat for current woes is.
As it is, I say thank you to Pat Rice for his loyal and much welcomed contribution to the history of Arsenal Football Club. Who would have thought that the young man slouching in the 1968 team photo would go on to be such an unsung hero.
Roy Hodgson’s final match as manager of West Bromwich Albion was thought to be a powerful motivating factor for their players on Sunday. Let’s hope that win in Pat’s final match ever spurs the players beyond the need to win for third place.