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David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle may be gone but his memory will always live on

PUBLISHED: 11:44 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:45 31 March 2020

Arsenal's David Rocastle takes control of the ball with team mate Tony Adams alongside, and Reading's Stuart Beavon (right) and Les Taylor coming up from behind. Picture: PA

Arsenal's David Rocastle takes control of the ball with team mate Tony Adams alongside, and Reading's Stuart Beavon (right) and Les Taylor coming up from behind. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

On March 31, 2001, David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle passed away after losing his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It has been 19 years since that tragic day, but his memory still lives on now and forever.

Arsenal's David Rocastle and Tottenham's Nayim race for the ball during the first division match at Highbury, London. Picture: John Stillwell/PAArsenal's David Rocastle and Tottenham's Nayim race for the ball during the first division match at Highbury, London. Picture: John Stillwell/PA

For a generation of Arsenal fans, David Rocastle was the greatest they’d ever seen. Blessed with flair, strength, pace and power, Rocky had it all. He was the Brockley boy who played like a Brazilian.

After overcoming the setbacks of rejection by Millwall and poor eyesight in his youth career, Rocastle graduated from the Gunners’ academy and made his first-team debut in 1985.

He would become a key part of the club’s success under George Graham, who was beginning to blend youth with some astute signings to form the basis of the team that would achieve success in late 80s and early 90s.

Rocky earned his place in Arsenal folklore before his 20th birthday, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over north London rivals Tottenham to secure a place in 1986/87 League Cup final. The Gunners would go on to beat Liverpool at Wembley and Rocastle had his first medal.

Arsenal's David Rocastle (c) battles for the ball with Norwich City's Dean Coney (r) as teammate Steve Bould (l) looks on. Picture: PAArsenal's David Rocastle (c) battles for the ball with Norwich City's Dean Coney (r) as teammate Steve Bould (l) looks on. Picture: PA

He would be ever-present as Arsenal famously won the 1988/89 First Division title, but injury issues – mostly surrounding his knee – would limit him to just 18 appearances in 1990/91 as Graham’s men lifted the title again.

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Those problems with his knee would spell the end for Rocastle at Arsenal who, despite a resurgence the following season, would be sold to Leeds United for £2m. He reportedly cried when Graham told him that he was being sold, and the Scot was criticised for his seemingly cold decision.

He would turn out to be right though. Rocky was never the same as he struggled for fitness during spells at Manchester City, Chelsea and Third Division Hull City, before retiring in 1999 after a short stint in Malaysia. Just two years later, he would pass away aged just 33.

Arsenal's David Rocastle (right) fires in a 90th minute goal to give the Gunners a 2-1 victory during the Littlewoods Cup semi-final replay. Picture: PAArsenal's David Rocastle (right) fires in a 90th minute goal to give the Gunners a 2-1 victory during the Littlewoods Cup semi-final replay. Picture: PA

His loss has always been mourned by Arsenal fans, not just because they remember his talent, but his kindness, humility and pride at playing for the club.

Although there is plenty of debate as to where the quote originated from, Rocky is often credited as saying: “Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent.”

It’s a phrase that rings true in every walk of life, and one that the current Arsenal side would do well to remember.

Rocky’s passing may have been nearly 20 years ago, but he will always be remembered in N5, as a great footballer and a great man.

David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle. Gone, but never forgotten.


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