Tribute to the late great Arsenal legend David “Rocky” Rocastle

DAVID ROCASTLE – A WONDERFUL PLAYER WHO EPITOMIZED “THE ARSENAL WAY” BOTH ON AND OFF THE PITCH – A TRUE SUPPORTERS LEGEND: by Ken1945

DAVID CARLYLE ROCASTLE

BORN 2ND MAY 1967

DIED 31ST MARCH 2001

NICKNAME “ROCKY”

POSITION MIDFIELD PLAYMAKER AND WINGER

CAREER:

1985 – 1992 THE ARSENAL

1992 – 1994 LEEDS UNITED

1993 – 1994 MANCHESTER CITY

1994 – 1996 CHELSEA

1996 – 1997 NORWICH CITY

1997 – 1998 HULL CITY

INTERNATIONAL STATS

1986 – 1988 ENGLAND U21 14 (2)

1988 – 1992 ENGLAND B 2 (0)

1988 – 1992 ENGLAND 14 (0)

David Rocastle is one of a very few Arsenal players who unite the fan base, with wonderful memories of a gifted, talented, humble and loyal Gooner throughout his short life.

He was an outstanding footballer, who came through the Arsenal academy, after being rejected by Millwall!!!

It was Terry Neill, in May 1982, who brought this wonderful player to our club and it was Don Howe (having taken over from Neill) who gave Rocky his first professional contract two years later.

One of the first things that was sorted out was his poor eyesight, as no one could understand why he was always playing with his head down, Martin Keown states that they took him to the centre circle and asked if he could see the goals…and he admitted he couldn’t!!

He was fitted with contact lenses – and the rest is history as he exploded onto the football scene.

David made his debut against Newcastle in 1985, and was part of our first team under Don Howe and George Graham, winning the following honours:

The Arsenal:

Champions 1988-1989 / 1990-1991

Football League Cup 1986-1987

FA Charity Shield 1991

Football League Centenary Trophy 1988

Player of the Year 1986

PFA Team of the Year 1987 and 1989

David was never on the losing side during his England international career, being on the winning side in seven of his fourteen and drawing the other seven – yet he was not selected in either the World cup squad of 1990 or the 1992 Euros.

After failing to win either of these competitions, David was recalled to the set up and played his last game for England against Brazil, just after his 25th birthday, on the 17th May 1992.

It makes the decision by George Graham to sell Rocky just two months later, as yet another incredible mistake by our club. He had recovered from a run of injuries and was playing some fantastic football once again, hence his England recall.

After ten years at the club he loved, and with whom he had such a wonderful relationship with us, the fans, Graham’s inability to manage “flair players” (Charlie Nicholas was another) saw him transferred to Leeds United… yet another player being sold to one of our rivals and also the then current league champions!!!

Oh yes!!! this has been going on for years, fellow Gooners!?!?

Rocky did not want to leave and was open in his opposition to the move, along with the (this time I use the phrase with complete accuracy) vast majority of Arsenal fans and supporters. It seemed an incredible decision for Graham to make and was met with hostile disagreement by an incredulous football world.

Such words as “doltish,” “cold” and “woeful” were used by fans, fellow Arsenal players and the media… but the move went ahead, and the club went from 4th to 10th the following season.

Graham tried to say that his decision was based on Rocastle’s knee injury problems, but David had always denied that suggestion.

Here are a few quotes from fellow professionals about David:

Perry Groves – “I came back for pre-season training that summer and life just wasn’t as much fun without David there anymore.”

Tony Adams – “David was more than capable of putting his foot in when needed, he was a massively strong player, with thighs like tree trunks”.

Manure’s Norman Whiteside, after Rocky was sent off following an altercation between the two: “Not many players came back at me like he did, but David had no problems letting me know that he wasn’t to be messed around.”

Mickey Thomas – “He was a special talent as a footballer, but more importantly, he was a special person. There were no airs and graces with Rocky.”

Remember the 1991 Old Trafford fight, that saw us deducted two points? Rocky said “We went in there and we stuck up for each other. At The Arsenal we never, ever, started any brawls – we just finished them!!!

Another quote that is said to originate from David goes thus: “Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent” …something that, in my opinion, we all need to adhere too in our own lives.

Without entering into another debate/argument, I would have loved to see David Rocastle and Arsene Wenger working together. There is no doubt in my mind, that both men would have had the same relationship that DB had with AW – all three men were ultimate professionals in the footballing world and community.

Wenger said of him “A modern player, because the revolution of the game has gone on to more technique and more skill.” He also described David as “having an exceptional dimension as a footballer.” – he could have been talking about either Rocky or Dennis in my opinion.

I also believe that David would have had a place in our “Invincible” squad and would walk into today’s squad without any problem whatsoever.

I am proud to say that I join in when his name is chanted at The Emirates, and I feel so lucky and privileged to have seen this legend play in our famous shirt and wear it with pride and passion.

We all know that David passed away too early and in such a cruel way and the way in which he was forced out of our club by Graham has always left a sour taste in my mouth.

The club have honoured his memory by showing his name alongside so many other great players around the Emirates, and he has a special site giving his history at our club and with Mickey Thomas’s quote alongside. There is also the “David Rocastle” indoor centre at our academy to ensure his name is always with us.

One last point that I feel needs to be pointed out is in regard to our nearest and dearest rivals Tottenham:

Just hours after his death was announced, we were playing them in another north London derby. A minutes silence was to be observed, not clapping, but silence in honour of David Rocastle – the silence around the ground was observed by every single person, and David would have loved to have seen that the two great sets of rival fans showed the respect he deserved.

As a supporter of our club for many years, there have been some wonderful players I have had the privilege to watch and David Rocastle is, without any doubt whatsoever, one of those players.

Thank you for the memories and I still feel the pain of losing you my fellow gooner – RIP Rocky.

Ken1945

Acknowledgements to Wikipedia, fourfourtwo and The Guardian, among others, for assisting me in this article.

16 Comments

  1. gunnerpete says:

    If you lucky as I was to see quite a few of Rockys games, you would never forget. He was so underplayed by GG and by England. He deserved better but always remains a real Gunner.

  2. Tommogun58 says:

    Fantastic player such a sad loss to the game and a great servant to our great club, Rockies daughter was at the school where I work and played in the girls football team, she was their stand out player and reminded me of him so much.
    God bless you Rocky.

    1. Sue says:

      Great comment, Tommogun58 👍

  3. Phil says:

    Once again Ken@1745- thank you.

    1. Alanball08 says:

      Hi ken

      That was a fantastic tribute to a fantastic player
      It actually moved me so much that it brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat
      Like you I never understood why george let him go. For all the great things George done for us he certainly made a ricket or two by selling some of our top players
      Rocky was truly a great and i dont say that to often.
      A player we all took to our heart from day one.
      A player with flare, grit ,passion. A player who could pick a pass, score a thunderbolt, defend like a lion and a player who was never afraid to leave his mark on you if required.
      God bless you Rocky and we all miss you so dearly.

      Keep well and safe everyone

  4. Sue says:

    Super tribute, Ken, thank you! 🥺

  5. Grandad says:

    Excellent Ken. He was a wonderful player.

  6. Jim wall says:

    God bless you rocky,
    Pity you didn’t come into the squad when wenger took over, imagine him with viera pettit overmars berkamp pieres,
    What a dope Graham was to sell this wonderful player and mán…. Rip rocky

  7. jon fox says:

    Ken, Your best ex-player article yet! What made it stand out even more was the depth you went into this time about his character and his fellow teammates anguish at seeing him leave. It was an astonishing and far too premature decision by GG that backfired. His later and desperately sad illness troubles had not onset when he left- or if they had, were not apparent and as you say, it was merely an injury and Georges ill at ease with creative players that made this happen.

    Deleted for being political

    1. Phil says:

      Jon – leaving the political issues aside, your point of GG forcing the player to leave when he did was proved to be so wrong.
      The 1991-92 season saw us finish, I believe, in fourth place. We played a midfield of Rocastle, Thomas, Davis and Limpar, with Smith and Wright ( from September) in attack. We had full backs in Dixon and Winterburn who proved themselves as good going forward as they were defensively.
      Then it all changed. WHY?
      GG went from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 and introduced a midfield with Davis as our only creative link. The Football was totally different to what had been on show from the previous 3-4 seasons. Our midfield had players such as Jenson, Hillier, McGoldrick, Carter, Selly, Morrow,
      We seemed to become a cup side overnight, with no chance of challenging for the title with that team and the change in tactics.
      Great teams are measured by how they compete in the League, not the Cups. What on Earth was George Graham thinking?
      The writing was in the wall the day he inexcusably forced Rocky out of the door

      1. jon fox says:

        Phil Surely what you outline – and which is true – IS tantamount to forcing Rocky out? CAN’T UNDERSTAND THE POINT YOU MAKE AT ALL THEREFORE. Unless you misunderstood the point I made , which is the same as yours in essence.

        Deleted for refusing to stay on topic

        1. Phil says:

          Jon-there was nothing to read into. The whole point of my reply was simply to state that GG forcing Rocky out when he did was the start of our football becoming dull and uninspired. The balance changed from a very attacking midfield four, with flair and energy, to a very workmanlike three who created little. Note just how Alan Smiths goals dried up when GG changed the system. Says it all

          1. Alanball08 says:

            Omg phil
            Totally agree with everything you have said
            Couldnt have said it better my self.
            Not going down the same road as AW but I loved george and what he done for us and how he changed our mind set but he damaged us in the end
            All The players he brought through which were young top players.
            Forget the class of 92. George had the class of 88 and 89 proved what a class team these players turned into
            But then he broke up the side and I beleive lost the plot. Replacing great players with mediocre ones.

          2. ozziegunner says:

            Couldn’t agree more Allanball08; one has to ask the question as to what part the then Board played in George Graham’s drastic changes in personnel and style following his previous success?
            Thank you Ken for your wonderful article on a great player and person. The documentary “Rocky and me” featuring Ian Wright talking about he and David Rocastle growing up in Brockley and playing for the Arsenal is essential viewing by all gooners.
            By the way Allanball08, I just watched an interview with Graeme Souness, where he stated that Alan Ball of Arsenal was one of only two players, who made him feel he played over the top of him; the other was Maradona!

  8. SueP says:

    A fitting tribute

    Ive watched the Ian Wright and Rocky documentary on BT Sport a couple of times now and I would watch it again. He came across as a great man and left behind great memories for me.

  9. Kenny Rolfe says:

    Well done Ken, another great article. Where are you Johnno? Get in touch, I’m on Facebook

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