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Rioch at Arsenal; the man before Wenger.

By Tony Attwood

Rioch had one season at Arsenal – 1995/6.  He can point to the season as having some success such as

  • Reaching the UEFA Cup for the following year, having come fifth in the league
  • League Cup Semi-Final, lost on away goals

But we might also note that Arsenal were knocked out of the the FA Cup in the 3rd round by Sheffield United who played one league below us, and the fact that we ended up 19 points behind the winners of the league, and 25 points above the relegation spots.  And eight minutes from the end of the last game of the season we were losing (when we needed to win) and thus almost failed to get even into the UEFA cup.

Rioch might also claim that his great legacy was the signing of Dennis Bergkamp from Inter in the summer of 1995, along with David Platt.

But against that we might add that David Dein seems to have had a lot to do with those deals, and that Kevin Campbell and Stefan Schwarz were allowed to drift away, while Alan Smith confirmed he could no longer play because of cartilage problems.  The squad was looking dangerously poor at the time.

Against that we might look at  the team we did have…

Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Bould, Wright,  Merson, Keown, Parlour, Bergkamp, Platt…   not a bad selection of players.

However what gives us the biggest insight into the fact that Rioch was not all he seems is that at the end of the season he appears to have fallen out with the board over money for transfers.

This man had spent more on transfers than anyone before, and through his own strange approach to tactics had put Ian Wright on the wing, before dropping him, (leading to him ending the season with a transfer request), and yet wanted more money!!!

I’m going to leave the analysis of the Rioch season in detail until the next article, but while we deal with the man and his career it is worth seeing what happened after Arsenal to Bruce Rioch.

He next worked as assistant to Stewart Houston at QPR but left after just a year (you might start to see a pattern here).

Then he went to Norwich City, and did manage two seasons at the club, but he never got them anywhere near the play offs.  Interestingly he again blamed someone else for the problem – in this case it was the lack of ambition of the board.  He probably said the same about Arsenal.

But there is always another team and Rioch went on to Wigan.  He stayed for seven months.  The club said he resigned.  He says he was sacked.

It seems that by now the football world was getting the hang of the Rioch short term game, and he was unable to find a job for four years – until eventually OB in the Danish top league gave him a job.  He lasted two years.  He said his wife was ill, while the club said there was a dispute between Rioch and the club.  He didn’t win anything.

Next up (June 2008) it was Danish champions AaB who had to suffer a Rioch spell.   He managed to get the club into third position in the group stage of the Champions League but then on 23 October 2008 he was dismissed by AaB who, having been champions the previous season without Rioch now had just two victories from ten games and were second from bottom in the league.

The last I heard of Rioch he was running training sessions at Falmouth Town, and Cornish non-League club.

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5 comments to Rioch at Arsenal; the man before Wenger.

  • YB

    I read somewhere (it was probably one of the players biographyies) that the players used to refer to Bruce Rioch as “Dagenham” !!
    That is, he was past Barking !!

  • Andy Kelly

    In an interview for the Arsenal programme in the mid-70s, Rioch said that he turned down the chance to join Arsenal as a 16 year old. Instead he chose Luton!

  • Trevor

    You seem very misguided about Bruce Riochs time at Arsenal,Ian Wright was on the back end of his career and so it proved within 2 years he was finished playing for west Ham ian wright started a campaign through his cousin who wrote through the media anything Ian wright wanted.Bruce Rioch was never going to win a popularity contest with Ian Wright.
    Dennis Bergkamp was the best player from overseas to make a long term impact on these shores signed by Bruce Rioch because he wanted him David Dein would not know a quality player if he walked up to him.
    Also Bruce Rioch made the best of the mess left by George Graham and Arsenal qualified for Europe,he was asked by the club to clean up the booze and drug culture at the club, which David Dein knew was a problem for years and never done anything about it.
    I think Bruce Rioch done a fair job at Arsenal but compared to Arsene Wenger no one can match him apart from Fergie. And yes Bruce Rioch did turn down Arsenal and a whole host of clubs to play for Luton Town as it was his home town club at the time.Too many people think they know everthing on here just because they read the papers there is always another side to every story and i for one believe Mr Rioch was treated like dirt by David Dein he was good enough to appoint but the vile creature Mr Dein is, he as always never showed any backbone about decisions he made and like always made someone else the fall guy.

  • Tony Attwood

    Obviously we all have an opinion – I think mine comes not just from being there through that season, but also from watching some videos from the era, to remind myself of what it was like.

    As to the issue of who signed Bergkamp and Platt, of course we just have to take what we hear from those close to the club. What I’ve been over and over was that it was a Dein thing, not a manager thing, and certainly that would coincide with the fact that it was Dein who was instrumental in getting Wenger to come to Arsenal.

    But, of course, it is all opinion.

  • Trevor

    Yes it is all about opinions,i just felt that Rioch was not given a chance by the devilsh Dein,Rioch had worked minor miracles with Middlesboro and Bolton thats why Dein wanted him no man would turn down a top four job if he was of the right mind.
    Dein signed Wenger for the same reasons that he worked minor miracles at Monaco and turned Grampus 8 into a recognised brand,So my point is that Wenger thankfully was given a chance but equally that Rioch was not. Rioch gave the Arsenal board a wish list of 20 plus players to try and recruit of which Bergkamp was top of the list (he never wanted 20 players obviously just a starting point for the board to consider) David Dein probably at that point could not name 20 quality players he could probably quote 20 companies to invest in as thats what he is a money man not a football man,just like so many others he is in it for himself and not for the good of the game or care about us the fans

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