In 2006, Pat Rice gave the following interview to the Official Matchday Programme to talk about his working relationship with Arsène Wenger, who was celebrating his 10th anniversary as manager.
When Arsène Wenger arrived at the Club in 1996, he had a ready made right-hand man, steeped in the history and traditions of the Club, in Pat Rice.
But during the past 10 years Arsène has proceeded to re-write the Club’s record books, all the while managing to maintain the Gunners’ values.
Pat has been Arsène’s assistant manager from day one, and has shared all the highs and lows with him, witnessing at close hand the Frenchman’s management style.
Along with Boro Primorac, the three have formed a coaching team which has guided the Club to 11 major honours in the past nine seasons.
With the boss celebrating 10 years in charge this week, the matchday programme caught up with Pat to reflect upon a successful first decade working alongside him.
What were your first impressions of Arsène, was it just as much of a culture shock for you as everyone else?
Of course it was. We had been used to going out for a good drink after the game. Whenever the game had finished the players would go to the lounge and there would be lager and everything. But that stopped more or less straight away. In fairness Tony Adams, who was captain then, had his problem at that time, so they decided between them that it wouldn’t be the case anymore. Since then we have never had any alcohol in and around the changing room. He was shown to be ahead of his time because everyone has followed suit.
What were the other immediate changes?
The diet. I would say that was a major thing, what the players ate. Also stretching was a big thing. That came in before and after training and that was all new to us. Some of the senior players at the time say that actually lengthened their careers, especially the back four. So we may have been sceptical but it certainly worked.
So you were sceptical at the time of his arrival then?
Well we had no idea who he was. I think the only one who knew anything about him was Mr Dein, but the rest of us had absolutely no idea.
Did he meet with you and the rest of the coaching staff at the beginning and outline his vision?
No, not at all, nothing like that. He came in and slowly but surely changed things into his own way. It was nice and quietly done, nothing dramatic in it, and everybody responded positively to his ideas.
Was there uncertainty on your part about whether he would keep you on at first?
Well the very first day he arrived I asked him what my role would be, and he told me what he wanted from me and it’s been the same way ever since.
Did you advise him on life at Arsenal and in the Premier League in general?
No, not really, he didn’t have to ask my advice as such. We would sit down with the staff and depending on who we were playing we would talk about it and talk about the players. But his knowledge of players is second to none, not just in England but all over the world. Anyone will tell you that.
How can you measure the impact he’s had on the Club?
He has completely revolutionised the Club. All you have to do is take a look around the training ground and the facilities. All you have to do is look at the stadium. He was the one who kept saying that if you want to compete with the biggest clubs in the world then you have to do something different. Everybody in the world knows our style of play now, and they all enjoy it. The players enjoy it, which is the best thing, and as a coach you enjoy it after the game. It’s a pleasure to work here, who wouldn’t love to work in these surroundings, especially as we have an extremely good chef!
How has your relationship with the boss developed over the years?
I think that myself, Boro [Primorac] and the boss have a relationship where we all say the truth and what we feel, but at the end of the day the boss is in charge, and ultimately he will do what he feels right and we will back him all the way. We all get on well, but in fairness anyone who knows Boro and Arsène will tell you that is how they are.
Is he similar to any other managers you’ve worked with?
Nope, he’s nothing like them. He is much calmer than anyone I’ve known. He is just as diligent as those I’ve worked with before, but the really amazing thing is the amount of players he knows about worldwide, and the Club benefit from that year on year. He has taken the Club to a new dimension.
How ‘hands on’ is he as a coach?
Very. He is always at the training ground, always. He’s always working with players, whether it is one-on-one or with a group. He works with youth players, reserve players, first-team players – he loves coaching. His enthusiasm is infectious and people listen to him because you would be completely stupid not to. He shows people respect and if he had anything to say to a player he would tell them in private, because there are never rows or anything like that. All we work towards is winning the next game, everything else to a degree is irrelevant. Everything is building towards that. We all coach together, we all have our input. Each morning the manager will have a meeting with the coaching staff, he tells us what we will do that day, and then it’s up to all of us to try to put that into practice.
How have the first 10 years gone?
They have flown by. I remember the day he arrived like it was yesterday. I picked him up from the hotel that day and brought him into Highbury. He will go down as perhaps the greatest manager this Club has ever known, certainly alongside them. His legacy will last forever.
This interview first appeared in the Official Matchday Programme. Click here to subscribeCopyright 2017 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