FORMER Northern Ireland football star and Arsenal legend Pat Rice was rewarded for his services to the beautiful game, when the Queen presented him with an MBE at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
The Belfast-born man was among a host of sporting heroes and celebrities who were recognised on the Queen’s News Year honours list.
In a remarkable career, Mr Rice made 528 appearances for Arsenal as a player before going onto help Arsène Wenger’s team to seven major honours as a coach.
Yesterday, his beloved club paid a special tribute to Pat Rice as he received his Royal honour.
“Everyone at Arsenal would like to congratulate Pat on this special achievement,” a statement on the Arsenal club website read.
When the list of Queen’s honours were revealed at the end of December, Mr Rice said he was shocked and flattered.
“I am delighted and honoured to be receiving an MBE,” he said.
“The news of the award came as a complete surprise and I am just so flattered to be included.
“I have been lucky to have played and worked with so many great individuals, and through hard work I have enjoyed some success along the way.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me throughout my career, and importantly, a special thank you to all my family, who have always been there for me and supported me throughout my career.”
There was also glowing praise from the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“I am absolutely delighted because if someone deserves it, it is Pat Rice,” said Mr Wenger.
“He had 100% genuine commitment every day and you respect that... he is someone you could go to war with. You would love to be in the trenches with Pat and those are very difficult qualities to find in modern society.”