David Rocastle Tribute

I was lucky enough to be inducted into the ways of Arsenal at just the right time. It was only a season after I first attended Highbury that we won a League Cup and a year after that the League title. A significant part of the successes that cemented my addiction to the club was David Rocastle. Like most other Gooners at the time, Rocky was a favourite.

Since the end of George Graham’s reign and the brave new world of the Wenger era it’s been common to mark The Professor as the purist and characterise Graham as a drab pragmatist. The Glaswegian was certainly not as cosmopolitan or idealistic as the Frenchman; his side was determined and well drilled but still knew how to score goals. It was players like Rocastle, with the Graham blend of commitment and style that made Arsenal title winners, not just a tough side to beat.

Rocastle was a gifted player with a deft right foot and a mesmerising talent for close control. I still remember that incisive dash as he’d cut in from the flank and run straight at opposition defences. My mental image of Rocastle is of him threatening an opponent’s defence, jinking in and out but keeping his head up, looking for an option. He wasn’t like other wide midfielders of the time, he didn’t just put his head down and aim for the by-line and a hopeful cross, he had the talent and confidence to come in off the flank and influence the game .

Of course, you couldn’t play for George Graham if you weren’t committed; something Rocky certainly was. One of my best memories of the late 80’s and early 90’s was the team spirit the side had and the way they stuck up for each other. Rocky was always in the thick of it. I always had the feeling that this Arsenal team cared as much as we on the North Bank did. That connection can’t be bought. Feeling that a player loves the club like you do turns them into a legend.

Rocastle loved this club which is why his eventual departure was so disappointing. I’ll always remember my sister crying when she heard he was off to Leeds. Similarly, it’s often recalled that Rocastle was informed that a bid had been recieved from the Elland Road side in an impromptu meeting in George Graham’s car. Rocastle  is said to have broken down in tears, desperate not to leave Arsenal.

Despite the final journeyman years of his career Rocastle will always be remembered as an Arsenal player.

10 years after his death at the age of 33, David Rocastle is still missed by those who saw him grace that number seven shirt.

Thanks Rocky, gone but never forgotten.