What Bruce Rioch did for Arsenal – looking back 20 years on from his arrival
Twenty years ago, Bruce Rioch was unveiled as Arsenal's new boss having guided Bolton to successive promotions. His one-year tenure is hardly remembered fondly, punctuated by bust-ups with senior pros including Ian Wright, and a frosty relationship with vice chairman David Dein. Thus, the former Bolton manager has been virtually airbrushed from Gunners history.
Rioch was dismissed as a dour "interregnum" boss who simply kept the seat warm for Arsene Wenger, but here are five reasons why Arsenal fans and Wenger should be grateful to the straight-laced Scot...
1) He bedded in Dennis Bergkamp
It was (then) Monaco manager Wenger who recommended to buddy David Dein that the Inter Milan forward would be the signing to usher in a new era at Highbury, but Rioch helped ease the brilliant Dutchman into the hurly-burly of the Premier League during the 1995/96 campaign.
Bergkamp freely admitted that his confidence had taken a hefty knock during his troubled two-year stay in Italy, and although glimpses of skill were evident in his early Arsenal matches, it wasn’t until game six that he scored his first Gunners goals against Southampton.
Bruce nursed, cajoled, and eased me into what was a different style of football
Although Rioch later insisted that “Dennis would have found his feet eventually whoever the manager was,” Bergkamp remains eternally grateful to the man who “nursed, cajoled, and eased me into what was a different style of football, and made my family feel so welcome in England. He talked me through the different approach needed to be successful in England.”
The combined £12 million that Arsenal shelled out on Bergkamp and David Platt represented proof that the club were finally ready to loosen the purse strings and throw off the defensive, blue collar approach which had blighted the latter years of George Graham's regime.
Bergkamp acted as a magnet for other foreign signings over the next few years, including Patrick Vieira and fellow Dutchman Marc Overmars. When Wenger arrived in September 1996, two months after Rioch’s departure, Arsenal were ready to go truly multicultural and Bergkamp, who’d put his Italian nightmare behind him with Rioch’s help, was the first piece of the jigsaw.