By Michael Thomas
Me and Rocky met before we became team-mates at Arsenal when we were both playing for South London Schools at around 11/12 years old. I only knew him on the field at that point.
When we joined the Arsenal youth team I was coming from Stockwell and Dave was coming from Brockley, he got the train to Waterloo and I was on the Victoria Line – most mornings we’d meet at Arsenal station and walk to the stadium from there.
When we got to around 16/17 we were spending a lot more time off the field together. We went to a lot of parties – he seemed to know the scene a bit better than me! I would sometimes stay at Dave’s family home and we would go out as I was from the same area.
Dave started training with the first team a bit earlier than me and I will never forget when he made his debut. We used to train at Highbury on a Friday and the youth team would go into the gym after the first team. By that point Dave was already training with the main squad and he was by the stairs waiting to tell me that he was making his debut tomorrow against Newcastle. He was absolutely glowing and he couldn’t wait to tell me! Unfortunately we weren’t there to see it as the youth team had a South East Counties game but I remember Dave’s reaction to that bit of news so clearly. He was beaming with pride about playing for The Arsenal.
Me and Dave came through the ranks together, playing in district teams, it was a special journey with so many incredible moments that we could share with each other. Dave was humble, he had everything, he was so talented but he had time for everyone and that is what I Ioved about him. He was special like that – he didn’t see himself as bigger than any other person, in his eyes he was just a young kid from Brockley who had time for everyone else. He had such hunger and love for the club and playing for Arsenal – putting on the shirt – that was his team!
I would go to him for advice as he was in the first team a bit before me and he really was an old head on young shoulders. He lost his dad when he was five but he was just so well adjusted that you could ask him anything and he would try and help you out. He would treat everyone fairly.
When Dave left Arsenal that was a sad day for me. I was on pre-season tour with Liverpool in Paris and Graeme Souness came over and said to me, ‘That’s a bit of a shock about your mate isn’t it’? I was thinking what’s he on about before he told me that Arsenal had sold David Rocastle to Leeds. I knew Dave would be absolutely gutted because he loved Arsenal and his best mate Wrighty had just arrived there, I had left at Christmas. That was hard because I knew Dave would never ever want to leave Arsenal – that hurt him a lot and that hurt me.
But his move to Leeds and then Manchester meant we got to see more of each other. We would always talk on the phone but when I was at Liverpool and he was at Leeds we had some incredible times. I’d drive down a lot and spend time with him and the family and they were great memories. Much of it was just reminiscing about old times at Arsenal – something we did right up until his very last moments.
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