Early Doors

Vieira deserves place among greats

Early Doors

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So long, Le Long.

Patrick Vieira has decided to hang up his boots in order to take a cushy upstairs role at Manchester City. Having recently turned 35, the Frenchman's 18-month contract at City had expired. Rather than try and negotiate one final pay day and continue to be trotted out from the bench for another season, the tough-tackling midfield general has instead called time on a glittering 18-year professional career.

The days of those rangy runs from box to box and those long limbs flying in with crunching tackles which drove Arsenal to so much success are gone for good. No more will we see that perfectly spherical head atop his 6' 3" frame which, along with the likes of Thierry Henry and Kanu, added a height advantage to that Gunners side which Arsene Wenger could so do with among his current charges.

The man who made Vicks VapoRub an acceptable footballer's accessory may have played 727 games as a pro for six different clubs and his country, but he will always be inextricably linked with the Gunners.

Early Doors noted with extreme dissatisfaction how Vieira was overlooked for a central midfield berth in our Greatest Premier League XI. Despite topping our experts' poll, Vieira was nudged out of the reckoning by Steven Gerrard in our readers' vote. Liverpool fans have form when it comes to hijacking polls with online votes for their inspirational captain, but really? Three Premier League titles and five FA Cups would indicate Vieira was more than a little tasty, not to mention four Serie A titles (five if you include the one earned at Juventus which was later stripped from him and his team-mates there). Oh, and a World Cup, European Championship and Confederations Cup, while we're at it.

Vieira's first title at Arsenal came in the 1997-98 season, although that campaign saw Emmanuel Petit as the main man in the Gunners midfield. The next two, however, were all about Vieira, or La Grande Saucisse, as he was nicknamed by team-mates.

Vieira skippered Arsenal through one of those victorious campaigns unbeaten in the league, and lifted the club's last major trophy, the 2005 FA Cup.

After working with him at Internazionale, Roberto Mancini made the canny move of bringing the man who helped him to four straight Scudettos at the Giuseppe Meazza. Vieira was enlisted to help instil a winning mentality into a club which had virtually forgotten what it felt like to lift silverware. Just 18 months later, City won their first trophy for 35 years and qualified directly for the Champions League. Mission accomplished, and all without adding to the haul of 10 red cards picked up in English football during his nine years at Arsenal.

Now he has been rewarded with the job of Football Development Executive at the club. ED thought the Director of Football Strategy role handed to Damien Comolli at Liverpool was the last word in pseudo-corporate job titles in the Premier League, but there you are.

According to a City club statement, Vieira will help "to deliver the club's social responsibility programme, both in the UK and abroad, as well as working closely with City's commercial partners".

Nope, ED neither. Hopefully it will involve something a bit more than just being a meet-and-greet merchant in the Etihad Stadium's hospitality suites.

There does seem to be more to the job though, as the statement continues by saying Vieira "will also take an active role in the development of youngsters at the Platt Lane complex, providing mentoring support as part of the academy's Multiskills Programme, which seeks to provide a well-rounded lifestyle education for the club's junior players".

It remains to be seen whether or not a man who was once handed a six-game ban for spitting at Neil Ruddock (who later said of the incident: "Vieira missed but was near enough for me to smell the garlic on his breath") and was sent off a dozen times in his career is the right man to "provide a well-rounded lifestyle education", but he has cooled his jets considerably in recent years.

But whatever his post-playing achievements at City or anywhere else, Vieira will be remembered most fondly by Arsenal fans, who will joyously recall his constant, bruising war with Manchester United skipper Roy Keane, his five goals against local rivals Tottenham, and for mastering that seemingly long-forgotten art of winning trophies.

Just as Gael Clichy's move to Manchester City saw the last of The Invincibles leave the club, Vieira's retirement is a worrying sign of how Arsenal's trophy-laden recent past is becoming just that - the past. 

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We can't find him. Nobody knows where he is." - A Blackburn club source reveals that midfielder El-Hadji Diouf has gone AWOL as Rovers begin their pre-season tour of Austria. Diouf really is the gift that keeps on giving for ED.

CREATIVE SEAT ARRANGEMENT OF THE DAY: The builders of Brighton & Hove Albion's new Falmer Stadium made a cheeky addition to the seat arrangements when they finished work on the ground. In amongst the blue seats are a few white ones, arranged in the shape of a soaring seagull, but a few extra ones were added to show the bird, er, leaving its mark as it flies away.   

FOREIGN VIEW: "We made him aware of how he has to behave in front of our stand. As for our opinion about him, which you can read in our previous statements, nothing has changed. If Manuel Neuer agrees to the rules we laid down regarding his conduct and keeps a respectful distance, there will be no further organised protests and actions." - Bayern Munich supporters take fan power to a new level by meeting with new goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and agreeing to stop abusing him if he 'behaves himself'.

COMING UP: Paul Parker will be giving his verdict on the latest goings on in the Premier League, and we will be revealing the winner of our poll to find the greatest left midfielder in Premier League history.

As for live action, coverage of the second round of The Open at Royal St George's is already underway, while Stage 13 of the Tour de France gets underway at 12:30.

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