Football is not a matter of life or death, it is more important than that


David Rocastle made a name for himself at Arsenal and took a central role in the Championship winning sides of 1989 and 1991. He gained international recognition for England gaining 14 caps. After 218 league games for Arsenal, he was surprisingly transferred to Leeds in July 1992 for £2million. Injuries affected his spell in Yorkshire and he made just 25 league appearances for Leeds. He was exchanged for David White of Manchester City but quickly returned (after 21 matches) to England with a transfer to Chelsea. Injuries limited his opportunities at Stamford Bridge and at the end of the 1996/97 season, he had made only 29 games for the Blues.

Who is David Rocastle? 

Rocastle, or ‘Rocky’ as he became known, made his Arsenal debut in a goalless draw against Newcastle on 28 September 1985 and soon became a regular member of the first team. In 1987, just before his 20th birthday, he helped Arsenal to a famous League Cup Final victory over Liverpool, and their first trophy in 8 years. This was followed up by another League Cup Final appearance a year later, but this time Arsenal surrendered a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2 to a last minute Luton Town winner. Despite that defeat, Arsenal were on the up and, along with other starlets like Tony Adams, Paul Merson and Michael Thomas, Rocky was part of a young Arsenal team that were destined for greatness.

When did Rocky win his first league medal? 

In 1989, Rocky and his teammates tasted major glory, winning the clubs first League Championship since 1971 and in dramatic fashion, with a goal in the last minute of the last game of the season, against their nearest rivals Liverpool. It remains the most exciting finish to a league season ever and will probably never be matched.

This success was followed up 2 years later when Arsenal once again were crowned champions, this time in even more convincing fashion, losing just one game all season. Unfortunately, injury meant that Rocky’s contribution was limited to 18 appearances that season.

Did Rocky have International honors? 

By the age of 24, Rocky had been an integral part of a team that had picked up 3 trophies in 4 years. His huge contributions were well documented and on 14th September 1988, Rocky was selected to play for England for the first time, in a 1-0 victory over Denmark, which as provided debuts for England greats Paul Gascoigne and Des Walker.

Then what happened? 

Rocky was destined for a long and successful career on both the domestic and international stages. However, in the early 1990s, he suffered a series of injuries which began to hamper his game and in 1992 he was transferred to Leeds, much to the dismay of all Arsenal fans, by whom he was adored.

What happened after Rocky left Arsenal? 

After leaving Arsenal, Rocky played for a number of other clubs, including Leeds, Manchester City and Chelsea, however, the fans of these clubs only saw the Rocky magic in fits and starts as his career continued to be blighted by injury. In 1999, after further short term spells at Norwich City, Hull City and Malaysian outfit Sabah, Rocky succumbed to his injuries and was forced to retire.

What did Rocky mean to Arsenal?

In all Rocky made 14 appearances for his country, a staggeringly low total for a man with his talent. Despite leaving Arsenal in 1992, Rocky forever remained a part of the Arsenal family. The fans loved him not only because of his brilliance on the pitch, but because he played the game with a smile on face and his heart on his sleeve, and more than that, he always conducted himself as a gentleman.

Tell us more about Rocky’s illness 

In February 2001, Rocky announced that he was suffering from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the immune system. He underwent a course of chemotherapy and thousands of fans prayed for his recovery, but this was a battle that was too much, even for David Rocastle. Rocky passed away on 31st March 2001, aged just 33.

What did David Rocastle represent to you?
David Rocastle represented everything that was good about football. Honesty, passion, teamwork, commitment, and of course, sheer brilliance, and we believe that this is why he remains in the hearts and minds of all Gooners who were privileged to see him play and who continue to sing his name, even today.
How did come about?
The ongoing love for Rocky amongst Arsenal fans is what inspired us to create this website, so that people could have a place to share their memories and stories about Rocky. However, we also felt that it would be great to create an opportunity for everyone to do something really worthwhile in Rocky’s honour.

How the BBC reported his passing.....

Former Arsenal midfielder David Rocastle has lost his battle against cancer at the age of 33.

Rocastle, capped by England 14 times, had been diagnosed as suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

He had been undergoing a course of chemotherapy to battle against a cancer which attacks the immune system.

Rocastle's agent Jerome Anderson said: "It is with deep regret that I have to announce the sad passing of this young man in the early hours of Saturday morning.

"He fought a very brave battle against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is a form of cancer.

"He was much loved and respected throughout the football world and will be fondly remembered by everyone who knew him."

Rocastle's lifelong friend Paul Davis paid tribute to his former Arsenal team-mate.

"I've known Dave since he was 12 or 13," said Davis. "I saw him come up into the Arsenal team; we grew up in the same area, so I knew Dave as a youngster.

"He was a bubbly guy. There were no airs and graces about him; he would speak to everyone the same.

"He was a fantastic guy to have known, and I just feel so sorry for his wife and kids."

He added: "He was an adventurous player, and the fans absolutely loved him.

"It's only over the last few months when people have known he's been ill that people would constantly stop me in the street to ask me how he was, and whether they would ever see him again.

"It's only then that I realised what he meant to people. There's not many people who have the privilege of having that respect from the fans at Arsenal."

A grief-stricken Ian Wright, speaking on the BBC Radio 5 Live show he co-hosts with Mark Bright, referred to Rocastle as "a best mate and team-mate" before breaking down.

And Bright added: "Our heart goes out to his wife and family. It's a massive blow for Ian and myself."

Lee Chapman, a team-mate of Rocastle's at Leeds said: "He was a strong character on the pitch and in the dressing room. Away from the club he was a wonderful person to be around.

"It's a tragic waste of life and it just makes you realise that none of us knows what is going to happen.

"David was a wonderful talent.

"He came to Leeds and showed glimpses of his best form, but I'm sure he'll be best remembered for his days at Arsenal.

And he added: "He had a wonderful career, but I thought he had the potential to be one of the greats who might have played 70 or 80 times for England."

Former Arsenal defender Frank McLintock said: "David could have been an outstanding player for England.

"He was a really top talent who had just about everything - he had all-round ability."

Rocastle helped Arsenal to the League title in 1989 and 1991 after picking up a Milk Cup winners' medal in 1987 with the London club.

He also had spells at Manchester City, Leeds and Chelsea and had a loan period at Norwich.

Rocastle brought the curtain down on his professional career when at Hull City in 1997.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, was also shocked by the news.

"It only seems two minutes since he was playing for Arsenal. "It's too tragic for words to die at such a young age. It's unbelievable and you just don't expect that sort of thing to happen to someone of his age. "The very deepest sympathies of the PFA go out to his wife and children."


© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.