At the request of the family I was asked to contribute a fans perspective for Amy Lawrence’s simply fabulous tribute today. Now most will have read the superb Athletic piece, with a few of my words to blended in with those of Wrighty, Super Kev, Dicko, Lewin et al, here is the full collection of my thoughts sent in…..
I think perhaps younger fans may believe that the fact that we still pay tribute so often at matches to Rocky, is simply because he passed away. Of course, to lose one of our own so tragically and so young, is part of it but there is so much more to it than that. I think there are so many factors at play in the fanbase’s effervescent love for David.
The fact that he was entirely homegrown is a huge factor, and that, combined with the knowledge that he literally cried in the car park when George Graham explained his decision to sell him are obviously important but only part of the story. For me as a fan it is the immense pride in watching a player that my club has produced just seemingly burst onto the scene and help transform my team’s fortunes on the pitch. As Liam Brady has pulled Arsenal from a malaise in the mid-70s, Rocky did so in the mid-80s.
For younger fans, imagine how you felt when you saw Fabregas at 19 dominate matches and then amplify that feeling because he is one of your own. A London boy, playing for a London team, your team and he is the envy of fans of all the other top teams, your mates support. And yes, Rocky was at that level.
For me personally I was a South East London lad, watching another South East London lad, playing football, quite brilliantly, for the team I loved. Back in an era, before the money took over the game and social media perverted things, footballers who played for your team, were seemingly more like you, but with incredible talent. Rocky was not just one of our own, he seemed one of us. In every interview he came across as such, humble, warm spirited, affable, and crucially a team player. We all know from the quote how much representing The Arsenal meant to him.
Rocky was simply one of those players, to use a well-turned phrase, that continually ‘had you on the edge of your seat’, although I only ever watched him from the North Bank, so was never seated! I sure, or perhaps even know, that Lee Dixon, was the given the same instructions by George Graham, that we would shout from the terraces ‘Give it to Rocky!’ Give it to the player who could make things happen, with a mesmeric dribble, a simple drop of the shoulder, (I am sure he did that before and better than anyone else), or indeed a threaded through ball or perfect cross. Rocky had it all on the skill and creative front, but there have been more skillful and more creative players at Arsenal before and since, but that was not the whole story.
The difference between the good and the great in football is hard work. All the true greats have so much more than talent. Talent without the work ethic is talent wasted and Rocky never wasted an ounce of his God given ability. He worked harder than anyone else in the team, on top of being the most talented player. That is the difference between being a fondly remembered ex player and a club legend in my view but with Rocky there was even more, The final X factor with Rocky was the third element to add to the supreme talent and work ethic, and that was tenacity. We just had not seen a flair player like this before. The skill of a Brazilian, the work ethic of a Pat Rice and then surprise element, the tenacity and tackling of Peter Storey, all bundled into one phenomenal player, David Rocastle.
I have many regrets with Rocky too. I was a student and then a young parent so did not watch him live as many times as I would have wished. That said, I was there for most of the League Cup run and final in 1987, which was the beginning of Arsenal’s resurgence and of course where Rocky’s legendary status probably began. Scoring a last-minute winner over Spurs in a semi-final will put you on a fan pedestal swiftly.
What also sticks in my craw, is that Rocky, was an integral part of England qualifying for the World Cup in 1990 and the Euros of 1992 and on both occasions, Robson and Taylor respectively failed to take him to the finals. I was gutted for my hero then and remained gutted to this day.
I was honoured to be a guest of the Rocastle family at the premier of ‘From Brockley to Big Time’ at the Emirates. I shed tears watching the film and remember feeling so proud when the family introduced me as a friend to Ian Wright. I only wish I had met the man himself, but what a privilege to watch him play as he was instrumental in bringing two major trophies to Arsenal, after a long gap. The image of Rocky and Michael Thomas together after the win at Anfield 89, is easily one of my favourite Arsenal photos.
The iconic image is of Rocky, arm aloft saluting us the fans, and we the fans of that generation and future generations, as the legend is passed on, will never stop saluting you.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.