My old man he’s got a Sierra, Oh Patrick Vieira

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He came from Senegal and he played for Arsenal, although he was a French international and he had spells at a few other well know clubs too, Patrick Vieira will forever be regarded as an Arsenal legend.

Arsene Wenger wasn’t even the Arsenal manager when the £3.5m signing of a gangly French twenty year old was announced by the club, but he was most certainly Le Boss’ first signing and I think there are those who may argue his most significant.

Born in Senegal in 1976, Patrick was only eight years old when he & his parents moved to France. He made his professional debut for Cannes at age 17 & was captain of the side by the time he was 19. After a mere 49 appearances for the French club Italian Giants AC Milan came calling & Vieira set off for his first taste of Italian football. Big Pat made only two appearances for Milan during his year at the club & the press coverage of his move to Highbury was so minimal you could easily have missed it.

But in September 1996 the midfielder made his Arsenal debut against Sheffield Wednesday, coming off the bench to replace an injured Ray Parlour & became an instant fans favourite, striding from box to box with comparative ease and standing up to any and all physical challenges. Oh and he could play a bit too!

In 1997 Wenger signed another French midfielder, Emmanuel Petit, from his former club Monaco and the man with the ponytail immediately formed a formidable central midfield partnership with Vieira which brought instant success as Arsenal went on to win the league and cup double. The duo went off to the World Cup on native soil that summer and returned to the club as World Cup winners.

Vieira’s no nonsense style saw him fall foul of referees, he was sent off in both the first and second games of the 2000/01 season & collected a total of nine red cards during his time with the gunners. It also ensured fiery encounters with many opposition players most notably Roy Keane.

There was no love lost between the captains of the two most successful sides in England at the time and tensions ran high and challenges hit hard whenever the two would meet. One of their most memorable confrontations came in the tunnel at Highbury as the teams lined up to take to the pitch in 2005. The Arsenal captain had approached Gary Neville and told him he thought the rat faced right back deliberately kicked Arsenal players when the sides faced each other. The United captain took considerable exception to this, squaring up to Vieira and telling him “I’ll see you out there” & having to be restrained by referee Graham Poll. This was to be the very last time the two men faced each other on a football pitch & I’m pretty sure they don’t send each other Christmas cards or go on holidays together.

In 2000 Arsenal reached the final of the Uefa cup but lost on penalties to Galatasaray, Vieira missed his own spot kick on the night but did go on to collect a winners medal with France at the European Championships that summer (which was no consolation for Arsenal fans)

In 2002 as Arsenal celebrated winning the second double of the Wenger era long serving captain Tony Adams announced his retirement, for many years it had seemed that Adams would be irreplaceable in the role but Patrick Vieira was a natural successor – So much so that six years after his departure from the club it seems to me that it was the Frenchman who was the irreplaceable captain.

Although he missed out on captaining the side in the 2003 FA Cup Final against Southampton at the Millennium Stadium & consequently another winners medal due to injury it was testament to how respected Vieira was within the squad as he lifted the old trophy with David Seaman.

Then came a truly momentous season – led by Vieira the Arsenal team know as ‘The Invincibles’ went the entire 38 game 2003/04 league season unbeaten. That summer Real Madrid made an offer for our captain but the deal couldn’t be agreed.

As the 04/05 season began Arsenal went on to stretch their unbeaten run to a record 49 games, losing in somewhat controversial circumstances to Manchester United at Old Trafford. However, before leaving for a return to Italy with Juventus the big man had his revenge over United with what was to be both his last act and last kick on behalf of Arsenal Football Club scoring the winning penalty as the gunners won another FA Cup final.

There were rumours that Vieira’s knees gone & a youngster called Cesc Fabregas had started making inroads to the first team when Arsenal accepted a £20m offer from the old lady of Turin.

In total Patrick Vieira made 406 appearances for The Arsenal scoring 34 goals & winning seven trophies, he remains one of the most successful players & captains in the history of the club and his name is still sung by the Arsenal faithful.

After spells at Juve & Inter it was briefly rumoured that Arsene Wenger was set to to bring the midfielder back for a second spell at the club, but in January 2010 he signed an initial six month deal with Manchester City and stayed at the United Stadium the following season, picking up yet another FA Cup winners medal along the way, until announcing his retirement from the game yesterday at the age of 35.

There had recently been rumours that the much fabled return to North London would materialise in the form of a coaching role this summer but whilst he would most certainly have been a welcome addition to our coaching team it was another false dawn & Vieira will now take up the position of Football development executive at City.

But true legends are always welcome back to the club and few more so than Patrick Vieira.

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