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Bould move by Arsene Wenger as Pat Rice steps down as his assistant at Arsenal

ARSENE Wenger believes Steve Bould will bring continuity to the Arsenal coaching set-up when he takes over as his assistant from "fighter" Pat Rice, who retires at the end of the season.

The Gunners announced this morning long-serving number two Rice, 63, will leave his role after 44 years with the club.

Bould, the former Arsenal defender, will be promoted from his current role as youth-team coach, which for Wenger will make it a seamless transition.

The one-time no-nonsense centre-back was put in charge of the Gunners youth team in 2001, leading them to the 2009 Youth Cup and consecutive FA Academy Premier League titles.

The 49-year-old made 372 appearances for the club as a player between 1998 and 1999, winning three league titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1994.

"Steve's qualities are that he has the experience of the top-level game, he has managed here, he knows our football philosophy and therefore there will be a continuity," said Wenger.

"As well he has chosen after his career to coach here at the club and we always want to give an advantage to people who know how we work, how we want to coach."

Wenger added: "It is important when you come from abroad to have an assistant who knows the culture of the club and the culture of the country.

"I always do that when I travel and I was privileged here because I was lucky.

"Pat knew Arsenal well and knew English football.

"Nobody more than Pat Rice is a fighter, in every single game he is ready for a fight.

"He kicked me a few times during the games and I feel that in every single game he is ready to give absolutely everything - as a player or a coach - to win the game, and that is what you want."

Rice first joined Arsenal as a youth team player in 1964 before then going on to make 528 senior appearances over 14 seasons.

After a four-year spell with Watford in the early 1980s, Rice then returned to Arsenal as youth team coach before joining Wenger's backroom staff following the Frenchman's arrival in 1996.

As a player with Arsenal, right-back Rice was a double winner in 1971 and was captain of the side that won the 1979 FA Cup. He also won 49 caps for Northern Ireland.

After becoming Wenger's assistant, Rice helped Arsenal win three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

Wenger paid an emotional personal tribute to Rice at his pre-match press conference ahead of the final Barclays Premier League game of the season at West Brom.

"It is difficult to measure his contribution, he has just been tremendous," said Wenger.

"It is sad because his life was linked with Arsenal and Arsenal was privileged to have him as a player, as a captain, as a coach.

"Personally of course I am very grateful for his contribution to my period here.

"I would like him to forgive me for the bad moments I have given him as well.

"He has been a constant, loyal supporter and I'm just very grateful and privileged to have had him at my side for such a long time.

"He has decided to stop because nervously it is becoming more difficult certainly as well.

"He deserves to have a good time now but he will remain in touch with us because he will still work for us at some stage - scouting maybe - and as a supporter he will always be there."