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David Rocastle


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Artikkel fra arsenal-land.co.uk om David Rocastle (http://www.arsenal-land.co.uk/history/?col=159)



Appearances: 277 Apps, 34 Goals 1983/4 - 1991/2

Date of birth: 02/05/1967

Place of birth:Lewisham, London

Nationality: England, 14 Caps


Other clubs:

Leeds United 1992/93-1993/94

Manchester City 1993/94

Chelsea 1994/95-1997/98

Norwich City (Loan) 1996/97

Hull City (Loan) 1997/98

Sabah (Malaysia) 1998-2000


Arsenal-Land’s two-part special Legends tribute feature on David Rocastle is being published as part of the week of Rocky events which will culminate in the David Rocastle Day at Highbury on 1 April 2006.





The man who Arsenal fans will forever remember by his training ground nickname of “Rocky” was born David Carlyle Rocastle in May 1967 in the south London Borough of Lewisham. By the time David had reached the final year of his education at the Roger Manwood Secondary in Brockley Rise, his future was mapped out – it was impossible to get a good view of him in the inter-schools matches without risk of being trampled by the pro club scouts patrolling the touchlines! In May 1993, just turned 16 and free of his school commitments, Rocastle first kicked a ball for Arsenal, in the Haarlem under-20s tournament. His dazzling performances against opponents three years older than himself ensured that he signed apprentice forms on his return to England. David worked hard at learning his trade, first under the guidance of Tommy Coleman and then Pat Rice. While playing in the 1983/84 youth team, he soon earned the reputation as the most skilful youngster then playing in the South East Counties Football League. David signed his first professional contract on the last day of December 1984, and not long into the following season, made his first team bow in a goalless draw at home to Newcastle United, on 28 September 1985. Manager Don Howe was quick to play down the impressive debut and avert a media circus, but he realised the talent that had landed in his lap – “David passed when he should have shot, and shot when he should have passed, but he's a going to be a great player!”


ocastle played 23 more times that season, scoring two goals. Indeed, he was set for an England under-21 call-up when a torn knee cartilage brought his season to a premature end at Nottingham Forest in April 1986. In the early stages of his first team career, David was the target of some rough treatment by experienced opponents, hoping to intimidate the youngster, but he would have none of it. His easy-going smile belied a hardened core, fired in the kiln of a childhood when he lost his father at a tender age, and he always gave back just as good as he got.The Arsenal faithful immediately took this talented but tough young man, affectionately known as “Rocky”, to their hearts. Away from the pitch, David was easily one of the most popular people at the club – personable, modest, bubbly and cheerful, he was a man who made time for everyone, and never had a bad word to say about anyone. In the age of the ‘lad footballer’, he was one of the gentlemen. When Graham Rix left Arsenal to play in France, typically, it was Rocastle who wrote wishing him well, and thanking him for all that he had done to help develop his career, a gesture which Rix has never forgotten.


The summer of 1986 saw the appointment of George Graham, who must have been scarcely able to believe the young talent he had inherited in his squad. “Rocky”, Adams, Keown, Thomas, Quinn, Hayes and Davis were all in his first team squad, and Merson was showing great promise in the reserves. Under Graham’s guidance, Rocastle’s career flourished. Over the next three seasons, he was a mainstay of the team. More than a conventional winger, it would also be insufficient to describe him as a midfielder – his technique was reminiscent of Arsenal outside-right Joe Hulme. “Rocky” was fast, agile and highly skilled, he had the deft touch and mesmerising close control more usually associated with those who have learnt the game on the beaches of Rio, allied with the steely grit of a tough-tackling defender. The midfield bond with his close friends Mickey Thomas and fellow South-Londoner Paul Davis became the beating heart of Arsenal’s fast-tempo direct game.


One of the early high points in David’s career came at White Hart Lane in 1987, in a League Cup semi-final replay. Coming back from a goal down, the two sides were tied at 1-1 in extra time, when a miss-hit shot from Ian Allinson fell to Rocastle’s feet ten yards out. Receiving the ball with his back to the Spurs goal, David spun off his marker, riding the challenge with ease, and stroked the ball under the advancing Ray Clemence, to send the Arsenal supporters into ecstasy, as his famous smile quickly disappeared under a pile of celebrating team mates. The goal sent Arsenal to their first appearance at Wembley under George Graham, and David soon had his first medal, as he helped the team to a 2-1 win over Liverpool.


Rocastle was one of the stars of Arsenal's 1988/89 League Championship campaign, playing in 38 of the 42 league games. He scored six goals, although this only told a part of the story, as his assists, his dazzling ball control and defensive tackling in front of Lee Dixon made it seem like Arsenal had an extra man on that side of the pitch. Rocastle’s efforts were recognised at international level as well, as he made his debut for Bobby Robson’s England side against Denmark in a European Championship qualifier – the first of the 14 international caps that David earned while at Arsenal.


As he had done all season, “Rocky” worked tirelessly in the extraordinary win at Anfield in May 1989, the final match of the season, and even then, in the tensest atmosphere, his character shone through. Alan Hansen recalls catching Rocastle painfully with a bad tackle, as he was left for dead by another lightening-quick turn executed by the Arsenal man. “Rocky” accepted the apologetic hand which was offered, and as he got to his feet, merely smiled and asked enquiringly of Hansen: “What’s up? Getting old?” When Michael Thomas celebrated his last-gasp goal racing towards the touchline, it was into the waiting arms of his close friend that he landed. Pictures of the two celebrating joyfully together at the final whistle flashed around the world.


The following season (1989/90) started brightly for Rocastle. Arsenal started their title defence at Old Trafford, and things looked bleak as Arsenal went a goal down and Tony Adams, who had been up all of the previous night with a stomach upset, signalled to the bench that he might have to come off. “Rocky”, determined not to stand meekly by and watch the season start in defeat, moved like greased lightening to lash home the equaliser from a corner. The game, which Arsenal went on to lose 4-1, typified what was to come. David’s personal performances were strong, but team inconsistency cost them their title. To cap it all, the season ended in deep disappointment for “Rocky”, as he narrowly missed out on selection for England’s squad for the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy. A 26-man squad (including Rocastle) was selected for the pre-tournament training camp, but along with Tony Adams and Alan Smith, David was one of four dropped from the official 22-man squad. Manager Bobby Robson consoled Rocastle with the words that he expected the player to be “a leading figure in the next World Cup”. Of course, England failed to qualify for the 1994 Finals in the USA. Few players of his ability and in such prime form can have been so unfortunate.


In the 1990/91 season, when Arsenal won the championship again, Rocastle played only 13 full games, with 3 substitute appearances, and scored 2 goals. Injuries played a part, including a broken toe that healed frustratingly slowly. A more long-term problem though was that his knee was becoming inflamed after games, and in late 1990, he underwent the first of a series of operations that limited him to one start and three substitute appearances over the next five months. Not all of Rocastle’s absence can be attributed to injury. The season included the infamous “Battle of Old Trafford”, when “Rocky” was typically among the Arsenal players who stood up to be counted. The squad was subsequently warned by Graham, in the sternest terms, that a repeat performance of indiscipline would not be tolerated by the club. Late in the first half of the following game at home to Sunderland, David ran twenty yards to berate an opponent for a heavy challenge on Anders Limpar, and Arsenal fans were dismayed but not surprised when he was substituted during the interval, and then sat out a number of games.


For the final home match of the season against Coventry, Rocastle and Thomas were two of several non-playing members of the squad to don their match kit ready for the post-match trophy presentation and lap of honour. While the team was putting the finishing touches to a 6-1 demolition of Coventry out on the pitch, Rocastle and Thomas stood watching by the tunnel entrance. “Rocky” accepted the good wishes of a passing match steward, who sought to encourage him that he would soon reclaim his place in the side. The words made David hesitate, and he simply shrugged and looked at his feet. His friend noticed and reassuringly patted him on the back. The title trophy presentation was a symbolic moment. It was a joyous occasion for the club and the fans, a second Championship in three years, and a fully-fit Rocastle was easily good enough to be a member of the team. David’s generous spirit and commitment to the club’s cause ensured that he wholeheartedly joined in with the celebrations, and he was the first to offer congratulations to team mates who had played a larger part in the season, but caught in the midst of recovery from yet another injury, he found himself rather on the outside looking in.



The second part of this article will be published later this week, prior to the Arsenal v Aston Villa fixture on 1 April 2006, which the club has declared will be the David Rocastle Tribute Day. If you would like to join Arsenal-land in making a donation to the David Rocastle Trust, please visit Arsenal-land’s dedicated donation page http://www.justgiving.com/rocastle/ for more information.


Noen som kan hjelpe til med å legge inn del 2??

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The 1991/92 season was to be Rocastle’s last in an Arsenal shirt. He played 48 matches, and his performances belied the serious problem with his knee that had been diagnosed as degenerative. One of his finest moments came at Old Trafford, on a wet Saturday in October 1991. His team a goal down, Rocastle went on a mazy run which started in his own half and took him through three challenges, before, surrounded by four opponents, he clipped a 25-yard shot over the goalkeeper. A midfield containing the likes of England skipper Bryan Robson simply could not live with him that day. Four months later, David’s final goal for Arsenal came at Highbury in February 1992 – another 1-1 draw against Manchester United, played out before a packed 41,000 crowd. The season ended with a fiery match at home to Southampton, where Rocastle reigned supreme. Southampton’s side declared their intent as an early challenge left Limpar unconscious with a fractured cheekbone, and what followed wasn’t for the fainthearted. “Rocky” stood his ground, fearing no challenge, while his incisive passing carved out chance after chance for Wright and Campbell. Rocastle’s vision, combined with the pace of the Arsenal strikers, tore the Saints defence to shreds, and he left the pitch with the applause of the fans ringing in his ears.

Just two months later, in July 1992, the squad returned for pre-season training. Manager George Graham called to “Rocky” across the London Colney car park, and the two men sat in Graham’s car. The manager explained that he had already purchased one international midfielder that summer in John Jensen, and that another, Geoff Thomas, would be signed later that day from Crystal Palace. Leeds United had made an offer that the Board had reluctantly decided to accept. They believed that his knee condition was worsening and would increasingly restrict his mobility and pace, and Graham observed that he had come back from the summer break still struggling with his weight, as he had been the previous season.


By now, David was in tears, telling Graham that he had no wish to leave Arsenal. Graham was sympathetic, but firmly insistent. The move to Leeds could be a big opportunity, Strachan was near the end of his career, Leeds had just won the championship, there would be more opportunity for him there than at Arsenal. He persuaded Rocastle to travel to Leeds and meet Howard Wilkinson, promising that if he still felt that he did not want to leave Arsenal, he could turn down their offer. Graham has always regarded this as one of the saddest moments of his managerial career. Even when later that day, the anticipated purchase of Thomas did not transpire, Graham recognised the decision to send Rocastle to speak to Leeds could not be undone, and the deal was completed. When he subsequently compiled a video of his greatest-ever Arsenal XI, Rocastle was one of Graham’s team, recognition by the tough Scot, who is steeped in Arsenal history, that “Rocky” prior to his knee injury was one of Arsenal’s giants.

By the time David arrived in Yorkshire, he had recovered from the initial shock, and virtually accepted that his playing future could not be at a club that wanted to sell him. One of the first people to greet him was his former team mate John Lukic, who reassured him that there was life beyond Arsenal, and that he could have a long and happy future at Leeds. Graham had in fairness warned his friend Wilkinson about Rocastle’s knee problem and privately doubted whether he would pass the medical. Leeds manager Wilkinson was convinced by the results of medical tests that “Rocky” could cope, and so he signed him. By his own high standards, Rocastle’s sixteen months at Leeds were disappointing. In part, his low number of appearances was due to the longevity of Gordon Strachan, but former Arsenal team mate and childhood friend Paul Davis believes that “Rocky” struggled to come to terms with his shock and sadness at his departure from Arsenal.


Despite being a popular figure with the Leeds crowd, he was sold to Manchester City in December 1993. The City supporters still recall his part in their goal of the season when, surrounded by three Ipswich players, he rolled the ball under his foot, and in one movement swivelled clear of them all as though he had glued it to his boot. Moving into clear space, he struck a pinpoint cross which was finished gleefully by Carl Griffiths. His mobility, or rather, the lack of it, was however becoming an increasing noticeable problem, as was the way his contribution faded during the game, as his knee began to swell. By the time “Rocky” arrived at Chelsea from Man City just eight months later in August 1994, his knee problem was common knowledge in the game, but Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle took the view that 60 minutes of Rocastle was worth 90 minutes of many other players – hence he started regularly, but was substituted in 2/3rds of the 36 games he played that first season.


His experience proved invaluable throughout a European Cup Winners Cup run which ended at the semi-final stage. His performance in midfield on a memorable night when a 1-0 deficit against FC Bruges was overturned to send Chelsea through to the final four was probably his finest hour for them (he was inevitably substituted with 30 minutes to go). Sadly, the toll of the injury grew worse and despite spending a further three seasons on the club's payroll until his contract expired in the summer of 1998, he played just one more game for Chelsea in October 1995. Rocastle was loaned out to Norwich City and in 1997-98 he had a brief spell on loan to Hull City, but nothing came of either loan, or a summer trial at Aberdeen. On each occasion David ended up back in the Stamford Bridge reserve team.


On completing his contract with Chelsea in 1998, Rocastle joined Premier One side Sabah in Malaysia. Living on the island of Borneo with his young family, David was the ideal foreign signing – a true ambassador, down-to-earth, a team player, but nevertheless, as far as the Sabah fans were concerned, a world-famous player from the Premiership. Joining mid-season in 1998, Rocastle helped Sabah reach the 1998 Malaysian FA Cup Final, losing to Johor by a single dubious goal, and also the semi-finals of the Malaysian League Cup. The 1999 season saw Sabah finish a satisfying fourth in Premier One, reaching the semi-finals of the Malaysian FA Cup and the Final of the 1999 President Cup, which proved to be David’s last competitive match. He returned to the UK at the end of the 1999 Malaysian playing season, and announced his retirement.

Back in England, David took the opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends, but less than a year after their return, tragedy struck the Rocastle household. “Rocky” was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer which attacks the immune system. In the latter months of 2000, he was put on an intensive and aggressive course of chemotherapy, which he faced with his typical bravery and positive outlook. After Christmas 2000, when the effects of the chemotherapy were hitting David hard, Arsenal Vice-Chairman David Dein paid him a visit, and told him: "It's time to come home, once you're over this illness there's a coaching post waiting at Highbury.” It was a defining moment. Both men knew that the outlook was bleak. The offer was genuine, Dein would have promised (and delivered) anything in his power that would have helped “Rocky” overcome his battle, while David had just heard the words that he had dreamt of since returning from Malaysia. Tragically, the promise could never be fulfilled. Rocastle would have been a natural youth coach – his enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism would have served Arsenal as well as a coach as it did in his playing days. He had always said to the younger players, who he went out of his way to chat with and encourage, “Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent.”


By mid-February 2001, it was clear that David’s treatment was not going as well as was needed, and as news spread in football circles about the gravity of the situation, his agent Jerome Anderson released a short statement to the media acknowledging that Rocastle had the disease, and was in a life-or-death struggle to overcome it. In the early hours of Saturday, 31 March 2001, at the age of just 33, David lost his final battle. His former team mates were devastated. Wright, Thomas and Davis were all inconsolable when contacted for quotes. Portsmouth manager Graham Rix spent the morning shut in his office, in floods of tears.

That afternoon, Arsenal played Tottenham, and the respective Directors discussed with some trepidation whether to observe a minute’s silence. Before the game, David Pleat, the manager of Tottenham, suggested to the referee, Paul Durkin, that he should blow his whistle as soon as there was any interruption to the silence, remarking that football crowds in such circumstances as local derbies could seldom be relied upon to show restraint for more than half a minute. The players moved towards the middle of the pitch. The crowd rose to their feet. Rocastle’s former comrades, Adams, Parlour, Dixon, Seaman and Keown stood solemnly on the white line of the centre-circle. Off of the pitch, Rice, Davis, Smith and Wright were joined by many other Arsenal staff past and present who had known “Rocky”, and had ensured that they were pitch-side to mark the moment. Durkin blew his whistle, and the ground fell instantly and completely silent. Adams stood, eyes squeezed tight shut, as memories of his friend passed before his mind’s eye. Dixon glanced up as Rocastle’s image appeared on the stadium screens, and struggled vainly to stem the flow of tears.


The seconds ticked by, and not as much as a bird cry was heard. Tottenham fans must have reflected that more than most, Rocastle had caused their fortunes to suffer over the years. “Rocky” had played for their two fiercest rivals, and his skill and endeavour had often been the difference that had resulted in Tottenham’s downfall. They must also have recognised however that a truly great man had been lost to his young family in the prime of his life. Durkin signalled that the minute was up, and the relief was palpable that the silence had been observed without the faintest hint of an interruption. It wasn't much of a game in such circumstances, but the players of Arsenal’s post-Rocastle era helped their grieving comrades through it. Pires, wearing Rocastle’s “7” shirt, scored Arsenal’s second goal, and dedicated it to David’s memory. If “Rocky” was there in spirit, the team’s 2-0 win would have cheered him, because for all his travels, he was undeniably always an Arsenal man through and through.

The following Friday, Rocastle’s funeral at Windsor Parish Church of St John the Baptist was attended by a veritable who’s who of football, including almost everyone who had known and worked with him in his short life. In the presence of his grieving wife Janet, son Ryan and daughters Melissa and Monique, he was buried after the service. His pallbearers were Tony Adams, Ian Wright, Paul Davis, Michael Thomas, Alan Smith and his brother, Stephen Rocastle. Along with all of the then-current Arsenal and Chelsea squads, mourners included Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice, George Graham, David O'Leary and Andy Cole – who brought on behalf of Manchester United a red and white floral tribute in the shape of the North Bank gates at Highbury. There were also flowers from a number of other clubs, including Liverpool, Leeds United, Norwich City, Hull City, Manchester City and Chelsea.


Two days later, on Sunday 8 April 2001, Arsenal again faced their rivals Tottenham, in the Semi-Final of the FA Cup. As the Arsenal fans’ chants for Rocastle went around the ground, the team swept to victory. Six weeks later, young Ryan Rocastle was made Arsenal's mascot in their FA Cup Final against Liverpool, which they were unlucky to lose 2-1. The club also invited David’s wife and daughters to Cardiff as their guests. Rocastle’s family lent their name to the Marc Fisher Trust, a charity which helped David during his battle with cancer. Arsenal players were quick to add their support. Ashley Cole donated his £20,000 sports car to their charity auction, while others such as Henry, Vieira and Seaman donated memorabilia.


In August 2005, Arsenal announced that the David Rocastle Trust would be their chosen charity for their final season at Highbury before their move to the new Ashburton Grove stadium in the summer of 2006 – a fitting tribute to an Arsenal player so readily linked with the famous old ground. Arsenal pledged to carry out a number of initiatives for the Trust, including the Arsenal v Aston Villa match day on 1 April 2006, dedicated to David, and various fund-raising activities during the season, supported by the club's current players.


If you would like to join Arsenal-land in making a donation to the David Rocastle Trust, please visit Arsenal-land’s dedicated donation page http://www.justgiving.com/rocastle/ for more information.


RIP, miss you!!

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