Pat Rice..Tasty Goal & Protest views

*Originally posted 27th April 2011

Afternoon all,

You may have noticed that over the last week I haven’t been blogging all to frequently, there are a couple of reasons for this but the main one is the current level of negativity aimed towards Arsenal by many fans. In equal measure I think it is easy to get caught up in the angst and difficult to remain solely positive so I have tried to compose my thoughts and asses my opinions without blurting them out here, even though I guess that kind of goes against the idea of having a blog!

Anyway, having now had time for reflection here’s today’s musings…

It seems that these days you either need to be in the ‘Arsene Knows’ camp or the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade, as if it’s that black and white, that cut & dry and that easy to call. I don’t think it is and, like many others who have come out in the last few days to admit they have no allegiance to either movement in particular, I still think that Arsene Wenger is the right man to lead our football team but… our football team only.

Sadly Arsene hasn’t been the only member of the management/coaching staff to have their future questioned or to come in for criticism of late and it has bugged me for a couple of weeks so whilst we seem to be in the midst of another news blackout from the club I thought I would share my views on the subject.

Recently there have been calls for the return of David Dein, especially in the wake of the takeover, believing that he can put the pressure on Wenger to spend a little extra on transfers, that he can be more influential in contract negotiations and remove some of the pressure from the manager, that a return of their old double act can bring a return to the days when we were winning doubles and bringing in players like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires & Junichi Inamoto. It’s as if David Dein is some kind of board level messiah.

We should remember that not every supposed messiah can be in the mould of Kenny Dalglish since he took back the Anfield hot seat and we should also remember that our former vice-chairman made a nice tidy £75m by selling his shares in the club to Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings.

While all of this recent praise and wanton return of Dein has been taking place a man who has been alongside Wenger since day one but associated with the club for much much longer has come in for some criticism and if rumours are to be believed is set to retire at the end of the season – it is not for the first time that both the criticism and rumours have circulated.

Pat Rice, a man who knows the Arsenal inside out, knows what it means to represent the club at every level and Arsene’s right hand man has come in for a lot of flack not just this season but for a few years.

The Northern Irish man signed for Arsenal as an apprentice in 1964 and went on to make 528 first team appearances (He started 521 of those games), winning the double in ’71, becoming captain in 1977 and leading the team to FA Cup victory over Manchester United in 1979. After a four year spell at Watford at the back end of his playing days, Rice returned to Arsenal as youth team coach in 1984, a post he held until becoming Wenger’s assistant manager in ’96.

If the rumours are true and Pat does decide to leave the club at the end of the season then he should do so with his head held high and to rapturous applause, not under a cloud of criticism and murmurings of ‘About time too’.

There are many who say that Rice has to go, that he is too old (although only seven months older than Arsene Wenger), That Boro Primorac is Wenger’s real right hand man, that he is a mere yes man and that someone more tactically astute should take his place. These are most likely the same people who say we lack a voice and leadership behind the scenes and off the pitch, in the dressing room and on the training ground, a proven leader who knows what it takes to win. We have all that in Pat Rice but it seems easily forgotten. The only reason he should step aside at the end of this season is because he wants to.

I’ve already listed his achievements as a player, but how about his achievements as youth coach for twelve years, think of some of the players that made it all the way to the first team in that time, Paul Merson & Ray Parlour to name just two. Look at his achievements as Assistant Manager.

I’ve heard many people say that a lot of Ferguson’s success at United is down to the fact he changes assistants so frequently, maybe that is true but those changes have not always been made out of choice – Brian Kidd left to manage Blackburn, Steve McClaren left to manage ‘boro, Carlos Queiroz has left twice to manage Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team respectively. Jimmy Ryan lasted only a season and Walter Smith was almost on a very very later life work experience at Old Trafford for a few months.

Most of those mentioned above had ideas that were somewhat above their stations, they all thought that they could make the leap from apprentice to master. If you don’t know much about the managerial careers of Kidd, McClaren & Queiroz then I’m sure Google can provide you a laugh or two.

Pat Rice has stayed loyal to this club for the majority of his life and he has stayed loyal to Wenger, the job he has done and the input he has provided over the years should not be undervalued nor forgotten.

I am all for the introduction of fresh blood, as it were, joining the coaching staff. New ideas and input would certainly not go a miss regardless of Pat’s involvement. As Arsenal supporters we are always crying out for more experience within the club and often for the return of former stars in some capacity, but if Pat Rice does indeed decide to step down at the end of the season, or whenever the time comes, I hope that whoever comes in has at least half of his know-how & knowledge, experience & loyalty but above all I hope they have the same dedication to Arsenal Football club.

In other news – I am sure you are all aware of the planned protest by ‘We want our Arsenal back’ ahead of the game against Aston Villa on May 22nd. You can read their latest press release here and once you have done so I suggest you take a look at the latest blog post of The View from N5 as way of a counter argument.

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

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