History: The ever-loyal Pat Rice MBE who spent 44 seasons at Arsenal

Pat Rice

In 1949 in County Belfast Pat Rice one of Arsenal’s most solid and loyal defenders of the 1970/71 double winning team was born.

Sooner than later his family moved to London where young Pat went to Gifford Street Primary School.  He would then work at the greengrocers down the road from Highbury. While edging closer to football, Rice signed for Arsenal in 1964 but only as an apprentice.   Two years later in 1966 Rice agreed to professional terms and managed to reach The Gunners youth and reserve sides. He would at last pull on the Arsenal shirt in versus Burnley in the League Cup in late 1967, a tie the Gunners would run out 2-1 victors in.

For the next three years Rice hardly appeared for the Gunners proving to be a temporary solution for Bertie Mee at times for other injured players making only 16 matches. This saw Rice sat on the sidelines during Arsenals 1970 Inter-Cities Fair Cup win versus RSC Anderlecht.  Despite this disappointment he secured his first Northern Ireland call up against Israel in 1968 as pretty much a reservist.

At last Rice got his breakthrough at right back during the 1970/71 campaign after Peter Storey was pushed into midfield. From this moment onwards Rice claimed his place in the first team till 1980. By the end of his first season as a regular at The Gunners he secured the clubs first double in its history after the First Division Championship and FA Cup against Liverpool was won.  A year later Rice failed to help Arsenal defend their Cup after Leeds United narrowly beat them 1-0 in the final.

Rice would prove to be the longest serving Gunner from the double squad where by 1977 he was Arsenal’s first team captain. As skipper he lifted The 1979 FA Cup in a last minute 3-2 final showdown against Manchester United. By this stage Rice had featured in five FA Cup finals being one of only three Arsenal players in history to do so. Skip forwards a year and he lost out on his final chance of European silverware when Arsenal was defeated on penalties by Valencia in the 1980 Cup Winners Cup Final.

Rice remained in the Northern Ireland set-up where after 11 years he picked up 49 caps which came to an end with his last match against England in October 1979 which turned out to be a 5-1 thrashing by the Three Lions.

In 1980 Rice departed Arsenal where he had accumulated 528 matches for the North Londoners.

He then transferred to Graham Taylor’s Watford where he assisted The Hornets to promotion to the First Division. Rice netted in the clubs opening game in the top-flight of English football versus Everton. In 1984 Pat retired as a footballer altogether after The Hornets reached the FA Cup final that year which they lost 2-0 against Everton, however Rice was never to play in the final. Overall he played 137 games for Watford.

In 1984 Rice returned to Arsenal as youth team coach, a position he retained for 23 years, clinching the FA Youth Cup on two occasions in 1988 and 1994. By September 1996 Rice found himself as interim manager of the Gunners after Stewart Houston resigned who was caretaker manager originally after Bruce Rioch stepped down.  He led Arsenal to three games in which they all won.

After Arsene Wenger turned up at Arsenal as first team manager Rice became his right hand man, where between the two of them they secured the 1997/98 and 2001/2002 double as well as the 2003/04 invincible Premier League title. Rice holds the title alongside Bob Wilson of having helped The Gunners during all their double winning victory seasons.

In 2012 Rice retired from his position after in total 44 seasons at Arsenal since his time as an apprentice.

After his emotional declaration Wenger paid tribute to Rice’s service “Pat is a true Arsenal legend and has committed almost his whole life to Arsenal Football Club, which shows huge loyalty and devotion to this club… I will always be indebted to him for his expert insight into Arsenal and football as a whole. On the training pitches and on matchdays, Pat has always been passionate, loyal and insightful colleague, who we all miss.”

Rice was later awarded an MBE in 2013 for his service to football, the Arsenal great was involved in Emirates Stadium tours and the re-designing process of the banners last year and is currently age 74.

Never to be forgotten…

Liam Harding

Here is the latest DUBLIN ARSENAL video picking their BEST EVER ARSENAL XI compiled of our Gunners since moving to the Emirates What is yours?

CALLING ALL ARSENAL FANS! Anyone who would like to contribute an Article or Video opinion piece on JustArsenal, please contact us through this link

Tags Pat Rice


  1. SueP, as you so dilligently identified Pat Rice for the next statue, this excellent article came along to confirm that proposed status.

    Liam records FACTS with accuracy and he records Pat’s great service to our club with, seemingly, genuine pride and passion.

    Pat and Arsene were so good together and shared, along with David Dein, the greatest time in our club’s history.

    I salute the man and his legacy!!

  2. Sometimes as you get older is the more you value loyalty, you can have a big and kind family but you are going to be move by those that shown loyalty.

  3. I think it’s a case of ‘Lucky Arsenal’ which our detractors said of the 1930s winning teams.

    By this I mean, if Pat’s parents had stayed in NI. , or moved to another part of England, then would Arsenal had the luck to have signed the then young Pat Rice? I doubt it some how ‘Lucky Arsenal’.

  4. I think Pat was the most “local” of all locally sourced players ever at Arsenal, and was I believe was first spotted kicking a ball against Highbury’s walls, and apart from that brief break with Watford had the longest of careers. Unspectacular and thorough as a player, which he carried over into coaching, he gave Wenger a lap to rest his head on in time of stress.
    God bless & long live Pat Rice.

  5. If Mr Rice gets a statue I hope it captures his humble beginnings.

    PS. Hopefully at the rate we are going we can have another Rice in Declan enter that conversation

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors