Monday, March 31, 2008
Rocastle's attributes would have put him on Wenger’s team sheet, every time
By 1970’s Gooner
I remember when David Rocastle began to appear for Arsenal's first team I was filled with excitement and anticipation.
Because when I learned that he was one of Arsenal’s own, a London lad who rose from the youth ranks to make it in the first team I felt that special pride of witnessing a local hero come good.
He wasn’t one of those imports bought from other English or foreign teams originating from as far away as Scotland, Ireland or Wales!
But my excitement rose to fever pitch when I saw him play at Highbury for the first time sometime in 1986.
He rejuvenated the same feelings I felt when I was lucky enough to watch another local lad make it big with Arsenal, Charlie George back in the early 70’s.
They played in slightly different positions and they were of course of a different style.
Rocky was also elegant but he was the strong and forceful type of midfielder whereas Charlie was a more skillful and a forward minded player operating just behind the front strikers.
Nevertheless Rocky made an impression on me for his crisp and precise passing and tackling. He was a very clean, prim and proper type of footballer but he married that with tenacity, determination and strength.
All these are the attributes that are really necessary for today's fotballer in the Premiership which the young guns of Arsenal are sometimes accused of lacking.
He was as his nickname aptly indicates one of the Rocks of the side and would have been on Arsene Wemger's team sheet every time.
You can watch him in action on the video we have downloaded on the right hand side of this page.
He had been recruited to Arsenal after featuring very successfully for South London schoolboys, signing as an apprentice in August 1983. Thereafter his star rose rapidly and his senior debut followed at home to Newcastle United in September 1985.
In 1986 "Rocky" was voted the Gunners' player of the year.
He became a regular on the right of midfield and, having earned the first of 14 England under-21 caps, he covered himself in glory during the club's successful League Cup campaign.
His most memorable moment was contributing the late winner in the Littlewoods Cup semi-final replay against our North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. He also excelled in the subsequent Wembley victory over Liverpool.
The most effective season of his life was 1988/89 when he didn't miss a game as we lifted the Championship in the most dramatic of all title races, winning 2-0 at Anfield in the final game to snatch the prize from their hosts' grasp thanks to a late goal from Michael Thomas.
To the dismay of most Arsenal supporters inclusive of myself, in August 1992 he joined Leeds United in a 2m pounds deal.
I remember reading at the time that when George Graham had informed him that he would be selling him to Leeds he shed many a tear at having to leave his beloved Arsenal.
It was certainly out of the blue that we all learned that he would be leaving. I don’t recollect George Graham ever revealing the reasons for his sale of the lad who was at his prime then.
Maybe he should now.
He did suffer from injury afterwards and never recovered the dizzy heights of his Arsenal performances so maybe Graham was justified in his actions, but who is to know what would have happened if he had stayed.
In February 2001, Rocastle announced that he was suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer which attacks the immune system. He underwent a course of chemotherapy for the illness but passed away on 31 March 2001, aged 33.
Two Arsenal fans started a David Rocastle Memorial group on facebook. Since its creation 18 months ago, it has grown quickly and now has close to 1,000 members, including various members of Rocky's family.
With the 7th anniversary of Rocky's death fast approaching, they decided that it was a good time to try and harness all of the strong feelings that Arsenal fans continue to have for Rocky into a charity fundraising project in his memory.
Arseshirts.com have teamed up to create three limited edition Rocastle t-shirts which will be officially on sale for one month only from March 31st. Every penny of profit is going to TreeHouse, the chosen Arsenal charity for 2007/08 season.
There is a website set up at www.rocky7.co.uk where fans can leave their tributes to Rocky and purchase the t-shirts.
You can buy these t-shirts and wear them with pride, both to help raise much needed funds for a worthy cause and to let the world know that we will never forget our Rocky.
If you don’t want a t-shirt but still want to give something to this great cause then click here and donate.
David Carlyle Rocastle, footballer:
Born London 2 May 1967; played for Arsenal 1984-92, Leeds United 1992-93, Manchester City 1993-94, Chelsea 1994-98, Norwich City on loan 1997, Hull City on loan 1997- 98; capped 14 times by England 1988-92;
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