Thursday 17th May 2012
When analysing someone involved at the highest level of this great sport of ours the first thing I notice is how the chance comes to only a very lucky few. The millions of us 'normal' folk who follow the game all over the world emphasises this.
With the playing side being limited by age and physical capability, a career in the game can be relatively short too. And to spend almost all your working years dedicated to one particular club makes you one of an extremely special few.
Pat Rice was held aloft in front of the travelling Gooners at The Hawthorns on Sunday a full 48 years since he first walked into the marble halls of Highbury. Age will determine how much of his great career each of us have witnessed.
Pat's is a proper football story, the fact that he worked in a shop on Gillespie Road before joining is almost beyond belief when you look at how the game has changed.
At 42 years old I am lucky enough to remember Pat as a player, the moment he lifted the FA Cup back in 1979 probably the clearest recollection.
Those before me however, will remember him being an integral part of the famous Double-winning side of 1971. If that didn't make him a legend even at that early age then nothing would!
Much of that famous squad was broken down over the coming seasons but Pat's loyalty to the club never waned, culminating in the proud day he became our club captain in 1977.
Football historians tend to mention clubs such as Leeds and Liverpool as dominating during Pat's playing career. On this basis it is incredible to think that other than the two victorious days mentioned above, the squad reached a further seven cup finals!
Pat proudly represented his country on 49 occasions and Watford fans remember him fondly too having played out the latter part of his career on the field with the Hornets, again being named captain and achieving promotion success while he was there.
Again it is incredible to think that Pat retired from playing 28 years ago meaning his time with the Arsenal off the field far exceeded his long career on it.
His time throughout our trophy successes under George Graham and Mr Wenger mean Pat has been part of every single piece of the Arsenal history I have been fortunate enough to witness in my lifetime.
After he was placed back on his feet at West Brom on Sunday he turned to us and saluted with a clenched fist. Once a winner, always a winner Pat, and it was an emotional moment.
I'm sure as a lifelong and passionate Gooner I speak on behalf of all of us by offering our sincerest thanks for the many memories and by wishing him a long, happy and healthy retirement.
I don't use the word 'legend' very often but...
Pat, you are a true Gooner legend.
FrankCopyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 17 May 2012