A decade since Rocky

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It’s amazing to think that today is the tenth anniversary of David Rocastle’s death. Where did those ten years go?

George Graham must have had to pinch himself when he took over the club just at a time when its youth programme had hit the jackpot. Sure, he added to their ranks with some players who would go on to be Arsenal legends, but imagine inheriting the potential of Adams, Keown, Thomas, Davis, Merson, Hayes, Quinn, Campbell and of course Rocastle. It was a time of brilliant reawakening for Arsenal after years of slumber, and Rocastle embodied that young, rising team.

He was fast, brave, skillful and could score outrageous goals. In his prime, a brilliant player.

I actually met him once. Well, of a sort. My little brother’s birthday was looming, and I decided to get him Rocky’s new video – The Rocky Road to Success. Rocastle was signing it at what was then HMV, at Oxford Circus. I remember going up the escalator, peering around to see what was going on, only to discover the man himself was standing on the next step up, also going up the escalator. I tapped him on his back and mumbled something embarrassing about him being skill or ace. Well these were the 80s.

The picture above must be 1986 or 1987. I was recently flicking through my ‘Official Centenary History’ of Arsenal (the one written by Phil Soar and Martin Tyler), when out it slipped. I’d cut it out a newspaper and stored it there for safekeeping.

Back then, he was my footballing hero. I have no other photos of players of that era, cut out of newspapers and carefully squirrelled away.

That was the power of Rocky, for me. What a player he was.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Adrian L

    Amen to that, a true legend. If any of the heartfelt writing being published this week can in some way imbue the current crop with his passion for the club and drive the team on to the title, it would be a fitting legacy.

  2. East Lower

    Wouldn’t it just. Rocky in his prime would walk into this team. Then again, he’d walk into most teams.

  3. Michael Pacholek

    My Arsenal education came well after the fact. I first heard his name thanks to the film version of “Fever Pitch,” as yet unaware that he had since died. But to hear contemporaries talk about how good he was before he gained the Kennedyesque patina of posthumous myth-expansion shows that he was the real deal. Arsenal could certainly use a player like him now. Especially if it means Denilson is the player who sits in exchange.

  4. Jeff

    I’ve just seen video of a chipped goal against Man United. Nice effort, that.

  5. Tim Merrick

    Nice piece Sir. I met him once also at a sporting goods shop in Wood Green…very early on in his career….he was really pleasant and I mumbled something about him ‘being the business’.

    I still miss him…he was born the same year as me and for some reason that was such an added kick in the teeth when we lost him. My favourite player during probably my most favourite time supporting Arsenal. We were a team in the doldrums but the mid 80’s gave way to such excitement and hope which culminated of course at Anfield. Rocastle got the assist on the 2nd most important goal of that decade don’t forget.

    The perfect blend of skill, grit and pure class. No single player made me more excited to be an Arsenal fan, such a pity he didn’t play in the 1990 WC in Italy.

  6. Anonymous

    An absolute legend. I remember the montage being shown at half-time in the Valencia game immediately after his death. The only half-time I’ve ever spent with tears rolling down my face. To those who’ve come to be Gooners during the Wenger era believe me Rocky was as good as most of the wonderful players Wenger has brought to the club. And as Arsenal as it gets. I remember reading an interview with him late in his career and the interviewer saying to him that he’d never quite recaptured his Arsenal form at his later clubs because of his injuries. Rocky was having none of it; he basically said George Graham broke his heart when he sold him & he wasn’t as good again because quite frankly he never quite cared enough once he left, football became simply his job when he wasn’t in the Arsenal shirt.
    RIP Rocky. You’ll never be forgotten.

  7. East Lower

    I love that anecdote. Leaving Arsenal broke his heart. Poor old Rocky.

  8. East Lower

    He scored a lot of special goals, looking back.

  9. East Lower

    Yep. Watch the goal montages. He was that good and Rocky in his prime would walk into this current team.

  10. Jeff

    Definitely a player from before my time as a football supporter. Just reading about him and watching some of the video footage, I’m a fan.

  11. Anonymous

    Wasn’t that the same picture on the front of the video? I remember watching it over and over again. That and The Race for the Title 88-89. Watching them with a cup of tea and peanut butter on toast.

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