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Pat Rice Appreciation Thread

May 10 2012 06:44 PM | Corrupted Tongue in The Wayward Cross

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It`s been an open secret for some time that Arsenal`s Assistant Manager Pat Rice will be retiring at the end of this season. This was confirmed last night as a number of players tweeted pictures of an official club function in his honour, adding their thanks for his service. The Belfast born Arsenal man has always been a quiet, studied character and rarely gives interviews to the media. Indeed, it looks as though he wanted to eschew any fuss by announcing his retirement in advance of the last home game. As a result of his taciturn nature, his 44 years of service if often under credited. So here follows a short biopic of Arsenal`s mystery man.

Rice was born in Belfast on 17th March, 1949 but soon relocated to Finsbury Park, where many Irish immigrants set up home in the post war years. Rice went to school in the borough and earned pocket money working in his mum`s greengrocer store on Gillespie Road, adjacent to Highbury. Rice was a keen footballer and once work was over, he and his friends used to kick a football around the quiet streets of Avenell Road. One day, a 15 year old Rice began idly kicking a ball up against the walls of the old East Stand. After about half an hour a club official emerged through the doors of the Marble Halls and summoned Rice. Sheepishly expecting a telling off for his antics, Rice reluctantly walked over. To his astonishment, the stuffy club official asked him if he could attend a trial.

Details of who exactly had been watching Rice or had thought to ask him for a trial are sketchy. But the bottom line is, the young Ulsterman took his chance and was signed on schoolboy terms in 1964. He made steady progress through the Youth and Reserve sides as a sturdy, if unspectacular right back, making his full debut as a callow 18 year old in December 1967, a 2-1 League Cup win over Burnley at Turf Moor. Though manager Bertie Mee liked his quiet work ethic, Rice spent much of the next three seasons in the Reserves, with Peter Storey the favoured right back. Though he did make his debut for Northern Ireland in 1968, his first of 49 caps for his country.

Rice watched on from the sidelines as the club secured its first silverware for 17 years with the 1969-70 Fairs Cup win. But that summer, Mee fell upon a plan to convert the uncompromising Storey into a defensive midfield player, to add more steel to Arsenal`s midfield at the expense of the flair of Sammels. As he had 6 years earlier, Rice took his chance. The following season, he became the club`s first choice right back, forging a resilient alliance with McLintock, Simpson and McNab at the back, with the fearless Wilson in behind them, Storey shielding them with gritted teeth. He became a significant part of the side that won Arsenal`s first ever F.A. Cup and League Double in 1970-71. Rice remained Arsenal`s first choice right back for the whole decade.

In fact, he was an ever present in three seasons in the 70s, in 71-72- where he was an F.A. Cup runner up, 75-76 and 76-77. As Mee dismantled the Double side and Arsenal were closer to relegation than silverware, Rice was one of the few constants. When his ex Arsenal teammate Terry Neill became manager in 1976, he made his compatriot Rice club captain. Rice captained the team to three consecutive F.A. Cup Finals- in 1978, 1979 and 1980, as well as the 1980 Cup Winners Cup Final. Though he would only lead his side up the steps to silverware once, as captain in the 5 minute Cup Final in 1979. He became the first Arsenal player to play in 5 F.A. Cup Finals for the club- a record that has been since equalled by Ray Parlour and David Seaman- though never surpassed.

In 1980, with the bitter taste of two Cup Final defeats in the same week, Rice left Highbury at the age of 31. He had won 2 F.A. Cups and a League title, having made 528 appearances and bowed out as club captain. His young compatriot John Devine was by now 22 and considered ready for the first team. Rice went on to make 137 appearances for Graham Taylor`s Watford during the most illustrious period of their history. He scored the Hornets first top flight goal in August 1982 against Everton. In the 1983-84 season, his legs began to give and he became a bit part figure as Watford made it to the 1984 F.A. Cup Final, which Rice watched from the stand. That summer he decided to retire from playing.

Rice was not a man for idleness however (though a 1970s footballer salary wouldn`t have left much room to retire to one`s garden as Voltaire would have it). He rejoined the club of his life as coach of the Youth Team. It was a position he held for twelve years. Don Howe- who had coached Rice as a player- made the appointment. Old ties remained as Rice`s ex teammate George Graham was appointed to the hot seat in 1986. Graham set about reconnecting the club with its traditions and, obviously, felt having Rice as part of the backroom staff would only aid that initiative. Rice won two Youth Cups in 1988 and 1994 and oversaw a crop of talent that would emerge to win Arsenal the league title in 1989.

The likes of Michael Thomas, Paul Merson and David Rocastle passed through his care as a youth coach, with Kevin Campbell, David Hillier, Ian Selley, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, Paul Dickov and Steve Morrow all serving various levels of first team distinction having been coached by Rice. In 1996 he found himself at the centre of great upheaval for the club. The sacking of Bruce Rioch was the catalyst for a maelstrom of activity. Assistant Manager Stewart Houston became Caretaker Manager and Rice was promoted to backfill his place. A month later, Houston, aware that he wasn`t in the running for the full time job, also resigned with manager elect Arsene Wenger determined to see out his deal in Japan. Rice was suddenly Caretaker Manager. On top of that, the club captain admitted to the press that he was an alcoholic.

Rice`s steady hand kept the ship on course though. He won all three league games of his Caretaker reign, with a 4-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, a 2-0 away win at Middlesbrough and a 2-0 home win against Sunderland. The only blot on his copy book was a 3-2 home defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in a UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg tie. Determined to maintain connection with the club`s heritage, Wenger immediately appointed Rice as his number 2, with Boro Primorac appointed as First Team Coach. Rice`s quiet work ethic earned him Arsene`s trust very quickly, as well as his capabilities as a coach. Rice has held the position for 16 years, overseeing two more Doubles and the unbeaten season, as well as a further five F.A. Cup Finals, bringing his tally as an Arsenal man to an astonishing 11 F.A. Cup Finals in the employ of the club.

Rice holds the joint distinction with Bob Wilson of having been involved in all three of Arsenal`s domestic Doubles. He has lifted a league title and two F.A. Cups as a player, four F.A. Cups and three league titles as a coach and won 2 F.A. Youth Cups as Youth Team Manager. He was part of a backroom staff that oversaw League Cup wins in 1987 and 1993 as well as league wins in 1989- sitting in the dugout at Anfield that fateful night of May 26th- and 1991 as well as the 1994 Cup Winners Cup. The final that night in Copenhagen saw four of his Youth Team graduates in the starting line up and a further three on the bench. In total, Rice has been on Arsenal`s books, in one way or another, in 24 different Cup Finals (25 if you factor in the 1993 F.A. Cup Final replay) and 6 league title winning campaigns. He appeared for the club 528 times as a player and will be in the dugout as Arsenal`s number 2 on Sunday for the final, and 903rd time (having taken in 4 games as Manager too), in a total of 44 years service to Arsenal Football Club. Those statistics are barely comparable for any other figure in our history. For that alone, he deserves our unbridled respect, our congratulations and our thanks. All the best in your retirement Pat. LD.


arsenal.vitalfootball.co.uk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9ZW7MYQCBM



Thanks for everything, Pat.

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King Kenny...Time Up?

Mar 21 2012 10:52 PM | Piksi in The Wayward Cross

Don't think I can defend Kenny much anymore. Far too many mistakes in every game. Rafa was constantly slated for far less. Not all the problems are Kenny's because too many times we dominate games and the players just give up. I've said it a few times but mediocrity is ingrained into the club now. The entire attitude around the club should be about winning, about playing attacking and free flowing football. It should be exciting to watch Liverpool and there should never be a feeling of resignation. The Liverpool of the 70s and 80s was a mixture of Spurs and Man United at their best. There's no reason for the club to not be like that just because we haven't won the league since The Beatles last played together.

His philosophy is good but he's bought the wrong players. He has no idea how to manage the squad and the players. Gerrard and Adam are attacking mids and play as reserved cm's. Henderson had a great patch of form playing as a cm and now he's being used as a rm again. Carroll has looked decent lately and is only ever going to improve by starting yet he's dropped every second game. I'm also not sure if Kenny knows how he wants his team to play. It's as if he wants to play both a counter attacking and a possession based pass and move style because Suarez, Downing and Henderson are very good at passing and running into space.

Enrique is the most over hyped and overrated player we have. He makes glaring mistakes nearly every time he plays and is only bailed out by his sheer athleticism and Agger. He is far too naive in defense and isn't even effective going forward. He constantly makes the wrong decision in attack and skews his crosses. When he reacts on instinct his crosses and attacking play is good but you rarely get that chance as a fullback. It's players like him that have begun to bastardise the fullback position. Playing that position should be like an art form. It requires an incredible amount of footballing intelligence and it's also a position that's difficult to recognise if done well. There are so many factors involved in being a good fullback but it seems like a growing trend to just get physical beasts and stick them there because they can run fast and run for long periods of time. Enrique, Taiwo, Clichy, Kolarov, Richards (although he has improved a lot this season) and Rafael are just examples.

Our inability to defend corners was annoying, then comical, now it's just out of control. How a manager who is getting paid 4m a year to manage this team cannot see this is beyond me. Whether you're an advocate of zonal marking or man marking, it doesn't matter. Rafa had our players using zonal marking for 6 years so Kenny should adapt to use it as well. Managing teams is all about adapting to the players you have available. Kenny has been around the club for a few years now and you can definitely see that his tactics are modern and not archaic. Therefore there's really no reason to use man marking. It's an outdated method, our players don't suit it and our players aren't used to it.

His substitutions smack of desperation. Today we should have brought on Maxi for Suarez at 2-1 to maintain possession and see the game out while flooding the midfield with 4 players but instead he brought on Carroll for no conceivable reason. Carroll offers nothing as a sub. He cannot offer an injection of pace and energy, he can't hold the ball up like Zamora or Drogba can and he's useless off set pieces because we can't defend them anyway. At 2-1 we still tried to play and attack QPR. That is entirely the wrong decision. Even at 2-0 we should've just sat back, sat deep and hit them on the counter with Downing and Suarez. It doesn't even have to be Maxi, Shelvey can fulfill that role as well. Shelvey will never fulfill his potential here though, he's not getting any game time and he should be playing in every game from now until the end of the season. He's an attacking mid like Gerrard but he can actually play in cm and maintain possession while hitting the killer ball. He's Adam and Gerrard combined.

Rafa was slaughtered for being a "poor" man manager but man management extends beyond hugging your players and smiling at them when they come off. Kenny is failing big time in this department and doesn't have the tactical ability to make up for it. He was brought in because of his status around the club which was the right move, however it just seems like the players don't care and don't respect him anymore. They have no motivation in the league and haven't had motivation for quite some time. Mercenaries are ever present in football these days. The players at Real Madrid don't all love the club, yet their motivation to win is immense. It's the same with United, same with Milan. Their players have the motivation to turn up against small teams and do what's necessary to win. Everyone felt that winning the Carling Cup would help with this. It would help instill that winning mentality back in the club, that desire to win, the motivation. It did nothing of the sort. The Carling Cup isn't a Champions League or even an FA Cup but it's still a trophy, it's still a step in the right direction. Kenny can't do much else in that regard. He's done all he's can to make Liverpool what it once was. He's tried to build a British spine to create dressing room harmony. He's brought back the boot room. He shows passion and supports his players but the players let him down time and time again. He's to blame for buying the players but the players are also to blame for not rewarding him with the trust placed in them.

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Ross County: Promoted To SPL

Apr 10 2012 10:26 PM | Obar Dheathain in The Wayward Cross

Dundee failed to beat bottom of the table Queen of the South in the First Division tonight. The late equaliser which saw the points shared at Dens Park means Ross County have been crowned champions.

It is amazing to think that back in 1994 Aberdeen were the most northernly senior league club in Scottish football. That year saw the election of two new clubs to the SFL - Ross County and Inverness Caledonia Thistle (ICT being the result of a controversial merger between Inverness Thistle and Caledonian) from the Highland League. Since then they have been joined by Peterheard and Elgin City who both joined the SFL back in 2000.

Less then 20 years on both clubs that joined in 1994 will be playing in the SPL next season. While their rise from the Third Division to the SPL hasn't been as dramatic or quick as that of Gretna both did it through gradual and sensible growth of their clubs.

Hopefully Ross County will get their ground ready in time for the start of the season. There are plans to play at Inverness should it be required but they hope that is merely a backup plan.

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Benfica: What went wrong?

Apr 10 2012 07:25 AM | Cowić in The Wayward Cross

Barring a miracle, the season is virtually over now. Porto would have to royally fuck up to not win the title now, and all we have left is the League Cup final, which no one cares about.

First, it's clear we had an unnatural amount of referee mistakes in our games which did make things far more harder that they had to be. However, this thread is not about that. Even with the enormous bad luck we had, I feel there were some other reasons that caused us to fall apart in the 2nd half of the season.

1) From lots of depth to no depth, and the Winter Market.
When the preseason was coming to a close, it seemed like we had the perfect squad depth. In theory, there were at least two players in each position, all talented. What made this change? There was the Enzo Perez incident. In preseason, it looked like he had potential, and with some adaptation could be a useful option for the right wing. When he went MIA, he ruined our depth on the wings. Then Ruben Amorim had to complain about a lack of playing time, even though he didn't impress when given a chance. We lost a player who could play right midfield, right back, and central midfield. This was a HUGE loss in depth. Recall the 09/10 season, where players like Amorim and Weldon were important players for rotation, despite not being the most talented of the team. Perhaps Carlos Martins shouldn't have been loaned. At first, it seemed like the plan was to have Bruno Cesar rotate with Aimar. This didn't materialize since Bruno Cesar was needed on the wings, so only Witsel, who plays best as a box-to-box midfielder could replace Aimar in the attacking midfielder role. Carlos Martins always contributed his fair share of assists and goals.

The Winter Market should have been used to solve these problems. Capdevila wasn't getting time, so why wasn't a left back brought in to compete with Emerson? Inexperienced Andre Almeida replaced Amorim, and unfit Djalo replaced Enzo Perez. The board was too overconfident about the great start to the season that they didn't see these issues.

What I think we should do next season? Don't loan decent players so easily. Carlos Martins, Urreta, and Franco Jara are a few players who could have played in easy matches and allow us to give rest to starting 11 players. It's nice to have the Cardozos and Aimars, but the Weldons and Amorims are important too. It wouldn't hurt to keep some players until January, to make sure if another Perez incident happens again, there's someone to take his place.

2) Porto's Hulk vs. Benfica's Gaitan
Even Porto fans dislike their manager Vitor Pereira. His tactics are mediocre, and the team underperforms, yet they still only have 1 loss. The reason for this is Hulk. He gives Liga defenders such a hard time with his individual skill that they fall apart and leak goals. For a short period, James Rodriguez also did the same. Benfica doesn't have anyone like this, not after Di Maria and Salvio left. During the 0-1 loss to Guimaraes, the 0-0 with Academica, and the 0-0 with Olhanense, something was clearly missing. Even if the team passed the ball well, there was no one to create real danger with it. Gaitan let us down in the 2nd half of the season. I defended him when he was recovering from injury, but we're in April now and aside from a few moments (such as Braga 2-1) he hasn't been consistently dangerous enough. When we won in 09/10, Di Maria was a constant thorn in opposition defenses, whether we played amazingly or poorly. Last season, Salvio was the difference in many games, and could have grown even better with the improved main 11 we have this season. This is why I believed he would be worth 15 million euros.

3) Emerson
Need I say more?

There are other things I can think of, but this is all I'll post for now.

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André Villas-Boas; how the football world’s nex...

Mar 06 2012 01:40 PM | Tokyo Sexwale in The Wayward Cross

Oporto, May 2011. The town is going crazy, as the city’s biggest outfit, Futebol Clube do Porto, has just managed to win the Europa League by beating Braga. Everything in white and blue is hailed as glorious, magical and extremely talented, including their young manager, André Villas-Boas. In his first season with the club, he has managed to pull a feat only his legendary predecessor José Mourinho has completed before with the side; winning a treble.

London, March 2012. Villas-Boas leaves Chelsea Football Club after a troubled, 9-month stint, with the club being in 5th place. Shot in the back by club’s veterans, delivered the final blow by erratic owner Roman Abramovich, the former Portuguese maestro makes his way out of town and away from the media that referred to him as the “nerdy schoolboy” and “robot”.

How did it come so far that a manager, hailed as one of the most promising young men in the business, had to leave Chelsea F.C. covered in dirt and labelled a “failure” by many? Why didn’t he survive when his illustrious mentor took the same route and did find success?

The answer is complex and consists of several parts. One part is the summer transfer market and Chelsea’s squad, the other Villas-Boas’ personal errors and beliefs and yet another the inconsistent, heavy demands from owner Roman Abramovich. In this piece, I will cover these three parts to show you my answer as to why Villas-Boas did not make it at Chelsea. And to show you why any young, ambitious manager with the same plans will not make it.

Transfers & squad

When Villas-Boas was still at Porto, celebrating their success, Roman Abramovich came in and offered the youngest manager to ever win a European title the lead role in his “new” Chelsea. With cash being waved and promises being made regarding transfers, André did not doubt for a second and took on the managerial role at a club he still knew well from his time as an assistant. The challenge? Win silverware.

However, the Chelsea Villas-Boas knew is no longer the Chelsea we know now. When he was an assistant of Mourinho, the likes of Terry, Lampard and Drogba were at the peak of their ability and the entire squad was focussed on winning everything there was to be won. When he arrived as a manager though, the stars of old had declined significantly and the general quality of Chelsea’s squad had been worn down through the years. Not only did the squad have little real quality to begin with but the overall quality of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs greatly increased, creating two new direct rivals in the Premier League.

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Realising his side would need a boost of youthful determination, Villas-Boas intended to acquire himself a few new stars and get rid of the old guard. However, this plan back-fired when Porto-striker Radamel Falcao, amongst other potential stars, refused to join Chelsea and moved to Atletico Madrid instead. At the end of summer, André did manage to get in Juan Mata and Raul Meireles but his other acquisitions weren’t of the needed standard to challenge for a league title.

Inside the squad, he faced issues in terms of respect and leadership. The old guard, that he had vowed to replace, had to stay put because of the club’s failure in the transfer market. This in turn led to issues in the dressing room, because Villas-Boas could not handle the likes of Terry, Cole and Anelka due to his age and inexperience. In the end, after several incidents, the squad turned against him and effectively destroyed the relationship between him and Abramovich.

Personal errors & beliefs

Of course, a great part of his failed adventure can also be attributed to Villas-Boas himself. After having won trophies with Porto in a flamboyant manner, with a fitting squad, he made the mistake to try and implement that same style in a Chelsea squad that only had one creative player and only a few players that were comfortable in playing possession football. He did not adapt his ideas to his surroundings but tried to adapt his surroundings to his ideas. In time, that could’ve worked but he tried to change things way to quickly, which in turn led to a run of bad results.

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His man management skills were also found out during his time at Chelsea. At Porto, he did have some genuine troublemakers in his squad but was able to communicate with them perfectly and received backing from the board room. With Chelsea, however, he did not receive full backing from the board room and, whilst speaking the language perfectly, failed the really communicate clearly with the non-Portuguese speaking contingent of his squad. This aided the already hostile environment in the dressing room between Villas-Boas and his players, weakening his role as a manager and driving him down on the respect ladder of Chelsea’s key players.

Roman Abramovich

And then there is the central figure of Abramovich contributing to this tragic end of a potentially fruitful collaboration. The erratic Russian had previously shipped out Mourinho for playing to pragmatic, Scolari on advice of his players and Ancelotti for demanding time to execute his plans. Doubts and quick changes of vision have been chasing Chelsea since Mourinho has been dismissed and this problem can be tracked all the way up into the dressing room. Simply said, Abramovich does not know what he wants.

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This lack of clear leadership and backing of his managers had essentially added to the respect problem Villas-Boas had in the dressing room, as Abramovich had given his players the feeling they were the boss previously and continued to do so by constantly putting the Portuguese manager back in line. Then, to top it all off, he shipped out a manager that cost him 15 million euros because of bad results he was only partially responsible for, completely disregarding his earlier plan to create a “new” Chelsea.

Abramovich is yet another example of a successful businessman failing to lead a football club properly because of inexplicable reasons. Where he’d, probably, back his directors and managers in internal conflicts in his businesses, he does the exact opposite with Chelsea. When football comes into play, all logic goes out of the window and Abramovich is too much a fan (read: fickle) to take decisions in the case of Chelsea.

Conclusion

One can conclude André Villas-Boas did not survive because of the players driving a knife in his back. Another person can conclude he did not make it because of his own choices and changes. And yet another individual will be blaming Abramovich. I believe it’s been a deadly mixture between the above three that has driven the Portuguese manager out of the Chelsea job in a rather ridiculous fashion. And in that manner, has also made it clear that a move to the blue side of London by any young, ambitious, possession-oriented manager will meet an early end.

Like Luiz Felipe Scolari said recently: “Whoever will be succeeding Villas-Boas, he’ll be going through hell.”

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