Bruce Rioch might be most famous for his one year stint as manager of Arsenal, going back 25 years to that 1995/96 season . So what went wrong after a glorious summer of some very promising signings.
The additions of Dennis Bergkamp and David Platt made high hopes among Arsenal fans and the English born former Scotland international and World Cup captain had a team that came close to some silverware.
The team was not a finished article and with players such as Tony Adams, Paul Merson and Ray Parlour all being “home grown” and in their prime, you would certainly believe that it would become a winning formula under the management of Bruce Rioch.
Despite winning that last game of the season 2-1, at Highbury, v. Bolton, and the goals scored by his two new recruits Bergkamp and Platt, he was never given a chance to continue. Arsenal finished fifth in Premier League, reached the semi’s of the League Cup, they were out of the FA Cup almost before it started losing to Sheffield United in a replay of the 3rd round.
Rioch had some fantastic players to his disposal and the duo Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp looked a good combine. John Hartson was also part of the squad and the Welsh international had a certain quality as well.
You had most of the players there that later flourished under Arsene Wenger and with the “french master” adding Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry it all became a different story for Arsenal as they started to dominate English football alongside Manchester United.
Sometimes managers are not given enough time, sometimes they lack something that owners or fans would like them to have, a certain aura or some type of leadership qualities that they cannot see, or maybe it’s a man being on the wrong place and the wrong time, not able to convince the surroundings that you are the right man.
The life of Bruce Rioch is not about Arsenal really, and his qualities in management has been little described and almost forgotten by the English tabloids as he moved abroad and coached and managed clubs to great achievements.
As a player, Rioch had the path to the top, from a modest start at Luton Town. He played for The Hatters in the mid 60’s and by 1969 starting to draw attention as he was described as a talented midfielder, and in that year becoming the most expensive signing in league football, outside the top flight, seeing Aston Villa pay £100.000 for his services.
Rioch later moved to Derby County and under the management of Dave Mackay he was integral part of the team that won the league in that 1974-75 season. He was also picked to play for Scotland, and the “Englishman” captained the side at times one being in the 1978 World Cup.
Rioch played 24 times for Scotland and from his debut in 1975 he had a three year international career ending that with his last game played against Holland in the 1978 World Cup.
After leaving Derby for the 2nd time he moved to the NASL and played for Seattle Sounders and during his two year spell form 1980 to 1981 still performing to the best of his level, being at one time named in the all star team of the league.
Rioch returned to England and played into his late 30’s at Torquay United where he also coached and later became the clubs manager, from 1982 to 1984. As mentioned earlier his most famous role was of course being in charge of Arsenal, with the work he did at Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough merited by that appointment.
In his later years in management he was seen as a bit of a “magician” when he moved to Danish football and took charge of Odense BK and later Aalborg. He guided Odense to a 3rd place in the league and when he took over at Aalborg his major achievement was to get “the league winner” into the Champions League group stages, which was a phenomenal job done.
After that last job in Denmark, going back to 2008, Rioch has been seen coaching in minor roles at non-league outfits, Falmouth, Penryn and Peninsula, all close to his home in the southern parts of England.
Bruce Rioch might not have been recognized enough for his career as a player, manager and coach, but few have experienced more in a footballers journey than him.