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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 30 September 2020

Remembering Rocky: The Arsenal legend who was taken from us too soon

It’s 15 years since the former midfielder had his life tragically cut short.

DAVID ROCASTLE DIED on the 31st March, 2001 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was just 33.

Part of the glorious Arsenal side of the late eighties and early nineties, the powerful, pacy midfielder, affectionately known as ‘Rocky’, was an ever-present as the Gunners claimed that memorable First Division crown in 1989, when Michael Thomas popped up to break Liverpool hearts at Anfield.

Source: Tribesmen Hurling/YouTube

It was Arsenal’s first championship in eighteen years and Rocastle played a crucial part, scoring six times.

In 1991, the side were crowned champions once more, finishing seven points clear of Liverpool.

Rocastle’s contributions were curtailed due to injury though he still managed to score a handful of goals.

At Highbury since his early teens, he was sold to Leeds United in 1992 – a transfer he tried desperately to resist. Arsenal team-mate Paul Davis later revealed that Rocastle cried when the deal was confirmed.

“We spoke about it quite often”, Davis said.

He couldn’t understand why they ever wanted him to go. The club’s line was that he was injured, he was struggling with his weight, he’d had a knee operation. I don’t think he ever recovered from the fact of leaving Arsenal, in his own mind.”

It proved a short stint at Elland Road while he only spent a season at Manchester City too.

He stayed for four years at Chelsea before finishing his career in Malaysia with Sabah FC in 1999.

Source: zZzimi14/YouTube

The following year, he began to feel unwell and the cancer eventually took hold.

At Arsenal, Rocastle was one of a number of young, local players to come through the academy and become a league champion.

Alongside Davis and Thomas, there was an immensely homegrown spine to the Gunners’ side at the time with the likes of Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn and Paul Merson all crucial elements in the machine.

The 15th anniversary of his death recalls a time in English football when raw, inexperienced players were afforded regular opportunities to develop and hone their talents.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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