Ah Bruce. What a fantastic man.
I tell you what though, I had no idea he’d played for Aston Villa - who welcome the mighty Bolton Wanderers to Villa Park tomorrow. It’s true, he made 154 appearances and scored 34 goals between 1969 and 1974, but more on that later.
Born in Aldershot, Rioch turned professional with Luton Town, making his first team debut in 1964 at the age of 17. A total of 47 goals in 149 games, from midfield no less, saw him earn a £100,000 move to Villa in 1969. This was, at the time, a record for Second Division sides. His five years at the club yielded the chance at only one domestic honour when he earned a League Cup runners-up medal in 1971 when Villa lost out to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
As his career began to wind down, he took in loan spells with Birmingham City and Sheffield United, before heading abroad to play in America with Seattle Sounders. His final club was Torquay United, whom he joined in 1980 as player-coach.
In 1982 he became Torquay manager, before resigning in 1984 and moving back to Seattle in 1985. His time in the States would be short-lived as he was appointed manager of Middlesbrough in February 1986.
A year later he guided the club to promotion to the Second Division, and a year later won a second successive promotion, this time as winners of the Second Division promotion/First Division relegation playoffs. Middlesbrough showed great promise in the first half of 1988–89, but fell away badly and were relegated on the last day of the season. He was sacked the following March as Boro hovered just above the Second Division drop zone but on the brink of their first ever Wembley final in the Zenith Data Systems Cup.
He made a quick return to management the following month with Millwall and guided them to a playoff place in the 1990–91 Second Division campaign, but left in March 1992, joining Bolton soon after, where he would make his name.
In his first season, we beat cup holders Liverpool 2–0 at Anfield in a famous FA Cup Replay, finishing runners-up in he league earning promotion to Division One. The following year Bolton finished in mid-table as well as beating Premier League opponents Arsenal, Everton and Aston Villa in the FA Cup. In the 1994/95 season they were League Cup losing finalists to Liverpool and beat Reading 4–3 in extra time in the Division One playoff final after being 2–0 down at half time. Along the way Bolton played some of the best, most attacking football that many a fan had ever seen from their side.
The playoff final victory was Rioch's last game as Bolton manager. A few weeks later he accepted the Arsenal manager's job and moved to that London.
He would only last one season at Arsenal, when he was sacked after only finishing fifth in the Premiership. His enduring legacy at the club was the signing of Dennis Bergkamp, from Inter Milan in June 1995; Bergkamp would go on to become one of the club's greatest players. However, this was overshadowed by him playing Ian Wright on the left wing, and the subsequent fall out led to Wright putting in a transfer request after being dropped.
After leaving Arsenal, he worked as assistant manager under Stewart Houston (his former assistant at Arsenal) at Queens Park Rangers, but was sacked along with Houston after just over a year.
In May 1998, Rioch was appointed manager of Norwich City in Division One. He resigned after less than two seasons at the helm after failing to get the Canaries anywhere near the promotion and playoff places that the club had long been hoping for.
Rioch made a swift return to management with Wigan Athletic for the 2000–01 season, but left the club the following February, as they occupied the Division Two play-off zone.
Rioch was linked with the Derby County manager's job after John Gregory was sacked at the end of the 2002–03 season, but it wasn’t until 2005 that made his comeback as head coach of Danish Superliga side OB, leading them to a third place finish in his first season in charge, but decided to leave the club in March 2007..
In June 2008 Rioch returned to management with Danish champions AaB. His first big priority was to try to qualify AaB for the Champions League which they entered in the second qualifying round. He guided them into the group stage after defeating FK Modriča and FBK Kaunas. By beating Celtic, AaB came third and thus entered the UEFA Cup. Rioch, however, did not witness this victory from the bench: On 23 October 2008 he was fired as AaB had only two victories from ten games and were second from bottom of the Danish league.
with Luton Town
- Football League Fourth Division champions: 1967–68
with Aston Villa
- Football League Cup runners-up: 1971
- Football League Third Division champions: 1971–72
with Derby County
- Football League First Division champions: 1974–75
- Football League Third Division runners-up: 1986–87
- Football League Second Division play-off winners: 1987–88
with Bolton Wanderers
- Football League Second Division (third tier) runners-up: 1992–93
- Football League Cup runners-up: 1995
- Football League First Division (second tier) play-off winners: 1994–95