Arsenal announced on Thursday that long-serving assistant manager Pat Rice will retire from the Premier League club at the end of the season.
Rice, 63, has been associated with the North London side for 44 years, having first joined the Gunners as a youth-team player in 1964 before going on to make 528 senior appearances over 14 seasons.
After a four-year spell with Watford in the early 1980s, Rice returned to Arsenal as youth-team coach before joining Arsene Wenger’s backroom staff following the Frenchman’s arrival in 1996.
As a player, right-back Rice was a member of the Arsenal side that won the league and FA Cup double in 1971 and the 1979 FA Cup. He also won 49 caps for Northern Ireland.
In his role as a key member of Wenger’s staff, Rice helped Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups including ‘doubles’ in 1998 and 2002.
Wenger, paying tribute to Rice, told Arsenal’s website: “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.
“Pat has been amazing for me over the past 16 years,” the manager added. “When I first arrived at Arsenal, Pat was always there and taught me so much about this great club.”
Wenger added: “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 a passionate, loyal and insightful colleague, who we will all miss.”
“Thank you Pat, we’ll miss you and all of us wish you and your family the best of health and happiness for the future.
“Although, we’ll still see Pat a lot, as I know he’s planning to come to all the home matches as a supporter!”
Rice’s last match as assistant manager will be Sunday’s game at West Brom, Arsenal’s final fixture of the 2011/12 Premier League season.
Wenger later confirmed Steve Bould, the former Arsenal defender currently in charge of the club’s youth team, would succeed Rice as assistant manager.
“I always want to give a chance to people who know how we coach,” Wenger said. “Steve is a very good coach and brings a continuation of our philosophy.”
Bould took charge of the Arsenal youth team in 2001, leading them to the 2009 Youth Cup and consecutive FA Academy Premier League titles.
The 49-year-old made 372 appearances as a player for Arsenal from between 1988 to 1999, winning three league titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994.