By Alan Smith
One of the most memorable moments of my career involved Rocky, but it was actually away from the pitch.
Penny (my wife) and I went down for the Arsenal end-of-season dinner at the Hilton in Park Lane at the end of the 1986/87 season.
I was joining the club at the start of the next season and we were sat there with other couples. Rocky came over to introduce himself, welcomed me, said how delighted they were to have me at the club and said if there’s anything he can do for me please ask. Pen and I spoke afterwards in the car, almost gobsmacked at that particular interaction. Rocky spoke as if he was the 30-year-old club captain and senior man, yet he was 20 years old! He was so mature, so charming and so polite. That was our first experience and we hit it off right from that point.
He was just one of those people I naturally got on with and I grew very close with his family. We would quite often meet for a meal and we became very comfortable around one another. I remember Penny used to speak to Janet whilst she was working at BT – they would be chatting away for hours which shows you how good mates they were.
He was a funny lad Rocky, he had a big booming voice when he wanted to, he could fill the dressing room with his big smile and big personality – you couldn’t dislike Rocky. He was serious when he needed to be but could also take the mick, especially with who they called the ‘brothers’ like Micky Thomas and Gus Caesar.
I would always like to see what Rocky was wearing and what car he was driving – he was such a classy guy. He had a beautiful Mercedes Coupe at one point which I ended up copying and getting one myself a few years later.
On the pitch Dave was so good at putting in an early ball, just fizzing a low one in that corridor between the keeper and defenders. When I realised how accomplished he was at it, it became ideal because I could make my movement just before the defender. He would do quite a few stepovers, which I had to get used to a bit – just watching him bamboozle defenders – but the gaffer knew Rocky had a special ability to go past players and encouraged him to be creative in the final third. Having said that Rocky was intelligent enough to know when to go past a player and when to deliver. In those early years we had Brian Marwood on the left and Rocky on the right – that was some service for a centre forward!
The fact that Penny and Janet were so close was something that was important to me as it meant our relationship remained. The nature of being a footballer meant things changed so quickly with your team-mates – one day you’re best friends and suddenly one gets a transfer and you don’t hear from them. Having Penny and Janet close meant we could easily retain our friendship as women are usually much better at keeping in touch than men!
I remember visiting him up in Leeds and him coming back down when he could. When he was at Chelsea I would go to watch him play and go meet him in the players’ lounge beforehand.
Even when he was in Malaysia we would speak regularly on the phone about what it was like out there. The legacy of Rocky lives on with his wonderful kids.
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