This week marks the 16th anniversary of David Rocastle's death. Here we remember seven magic moments from the legendary No 7's Arsenal career.
Arsenal 0-0 Newcastle United
September 28, 1985
David Rocastle was just 18 when he first pulled on the red and white of Arsenal for a first-team game, handed his debut by Don Howe. He was named in the starting line-up, alongside players such as Kenny Sansom, David O'Leary and Charlie Nicholas, for the Division One fixture at home to Newcastle. Arsenal drew the game 0-0 and Rocastle, who came into the side for Stewart Robson, played the full 90 minutes.
The teenager, who had starred in Arsenal's FA Youth Cup teams in each of the previous two seasons, impressed on his full debut, though Howe attempted to play down the hype, saying afterwards:
"David passed when he should have shot, and shot when he should have passed, but he's a going to be a great player!"
Rocky made three sub appearances in the following couple of weeks, but then forced his way into the starting line-up for a run of 18 consecutive games in the new year, before a knee injury ended his season in April. But the North Bank faithful had already seen enough in that debut season to realise a new star was born.
GOAL v TOTTENHAM
Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal
League Cup semi-final replay
March 4, 1987
Certainly not Rocastle's most spectacular Arsenal strike, but this goal at White Hart Lane in 1987 was unquestionably one of his most important.
The north London rivals could not be separated after two legs of this Littlewoods Cup semi-final, so a replay - at Tottenham's home - was needed to determine who would face Liverpool at Wembley.
Spurs took the lead - as they had in the previous two matches - but Ian Allinson equalised on 82 minutes before Rocky's moment arrived in the dying moments. Allinson's deflected shot arrived at the 19-year-old's feet in the box, his first touch took it past the defender and with his second he slid the ball home past Ray Clemence with his left foot.
It was fitting that Rocky, after a man-of-the-match display, had scored the winner, which led to him picking up his first piece of silverware a month later. A boyhood Arsenal fan, Rocastle was able to enjoy scoring against Spurs at White Hart Lane again the following season in another 2-1 win, this time in the league.
England 1-0 Denmark
September 14, 1988
Having already appeared for England Under-21s, Rocky was called up to the senior squad for the first time in 1988, aged 21. He made the starting line-up, alongside fellow Gunner Tony Adams, in front of 25,000 at Wembley for a friendly match against Denmark.
Neil Webb scored the only goal of the game, on 28 minutes, but the match was probably more notable for England's debutants. As well as Rocastle, Des Walker and Paul Gascoigne both made their senior bows, as second-half subs. Walker and Gascoigne would each go on to represent England at least 50 times, but Rocastle - who played the full 90 minutes that day - finished his career with just 14 senior caps.
He had an enviable record for England though, remaining unbeaten in those 14 matches (seven wins, seven draws) and his final appearance for his country was a 1-1 draw at home to Brazil in 1992, when his career began to be blighted by injury.
GOAL v MIDDLESBROUGH
Arsenal 3-0 Middlesbrough
November 19, 1988
This was a truly memorable solo strike during George Graham's first title-winning season. Receiving the ball just inside the Middlesbrough half, with a drop of the shoulder Rocastle shifted the ball past his first opponent on his left foot, then squared up the next man. A dummy and step over deceived him, and he was now accelerating towards the penalty area.
Next Rocky shifted the ball onto his right foot, away from the desperate sliding lunge of a Boro defender. Now in the area, with three defenders bearing down on him, he took a touch to control before lashing the ball right-footed in off the post. The whole move from collecting the pass from Michael Thomas to hitting the back of the net took less than 10 seconds.
The goal came two weeks after another of Rocky's classic goals - at Anfield in the League Cup.
GOAL v ASTON VILLA
Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal 3
December 31, 1988
Just a month after those goals against Middlesbrough and Liverpool, Rocky conjured up another masterpiece, this time away to Aston Villa. In fact nearly half of his 34 goals (15) came in away games, and this was the third successive trip to Villa Park in which he had netted.
This was the pick of the bunch. The ball fell to him 30 yards from goal, and Rocastle controlled it on his thigh before sending a dipping volley over the goalkeeper and covering defenders into the top corner.
Given his superb record against Villa, it was fitting that in 2006, during the last season at Highbury, Arsenal's Premier League fixture against them was celebrated as 'David Rocastle Day'. Fifty pence from each matchday programme sold went to the David Rocastle Trust, while a book of tributes was presented to Rocky's wife, Janet, and their children, Melissa, Ryan and Monique, before the game. Arsenal won 5-0.
Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal
May 26, 1989
Less than a month after turning 22, David Rocastle became a champion of England, when Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield on the last day of the 1988/89 season.
"Rocky won the Barclays Young Eagle of the Year Award for his part in the triumphant season"
The young midfielder had played every game of the season - one of three ever-presents for the Gunners - scored six goals, and assisted many more. He played the whole of this unforgettable title clincher at Anfield, winning the free-kick that led to Alan Smith's opener and enjoying the celebrations after his good friend Michael Thomas scored the vital goal in injury time.
Rocky won the Barclays Young Eagle of the Year Award for his part in the triumphant season, and he was a champion again two years later, though injury restricted him to just 16 appearances in 1990/91.
There's no doubt he was a vital member of the team when fit though, and George Graham summed up his talents perfectly: "He was a genius down the wing, and had a fantastic shot. His legs were so powerful and with such a short back-lift he caught defenders and goalkeepers out with early shots. He could go by people, pass it and move; an old-fashioned winger who could dribble and loved one-on-one situations."
GOAL v MAN UNITED
Man United 1-1 Arsenal
October 19, 1991
Having been shifted into a central role by George Graham, Rocky took centre stage when reigning champions Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford early in the 1991/92 season.
The game was goalless when Rocastle beat Neil Webb to a bouncing ball in the centre circle and stormed forward. He used his brawn to see off a hefty challenge from Paul Ince before evading Bryan Robson with a nifty step-over. Then Rocastle's brain took over. He looked up, spotted Peter Schmeichel just off his line and floated a delightful chip over the goalkeeper from 25 yards. 'Rocky' had a decent slice of luck when the ball hit the crossbar and bounced in off Schmeichel but he had earned it. This was vintage Rocastle. The goal was later voted the 16th best in Arsenal history by users of Arsenal.com.
Rocky scored home and away against United that season, his strike in the Highbury fixture in February 1992 proved to be his 34th, and last, in an Arsenal shirt.
ROCASTLE AT ARSENAL
Joined as schoolboy: May 29, 1982
Signed as apprentice: August 4, 1983
Signed as professional: December 31, 1984
David Rocastle - Arsenal appearances (goals)
|Season||League||FA Cup||Lge Cup||Europe||C. Shield||Total|
|1985/86||16 (1)||5 (1)||3||-||-||24 (2)|
|1986/87||36 (2)||4 (1)||8 (2)||-||-||48 (5)|
|1987/88||40 (7)||4 (2)||8 (3)||-||-||52 (12)|
|1988/89||38 (6)||2||5 (1)||-||-||45 (7)|
|1989/90||33 (2)||3||4||-||1||41 (2)|
|1990/91||16 (2)||1||2||-||-||19 (2)|
|1991/92||39 (4)||1||3||4||1||48 (4)|
|TOTAL||218 (24)||20 (4)||33 (6)||4||2||277 (34)|
All his goals
|Feb 15, 1986||FA Cup||Luton Town||2-2||A||1|
|Mar 8. 1986||Division One||Aston Villa||4-1||A||1|
|Oct 25, 1986||Division One||Chelsea||3-1||H||1|
|Oct 28, 1986||League Cup||Manchester City||3-1||H||1|
|Nov 29, 1986||Division One||Aston Villa||4-0||A||1|
|Jan 31, 1987||FA Cup||Plymouth Argyle||6-1||H||1|
|Mar 4, 1987||League Cup||Tottenham Hotspur||2-1||A||1|
|Aug 29, 1987||Division One||Portsmouth||6-0||H||1|
|Sept 19, 1987||Division One||Wimbledon||3-0||H||1|
|Oct 6, 1987||League Cup||Doncaster Rovers||1-0||H||1|
|Oct 18, 1987||Division One||Tottenham Hotspur||2-1||A||1|
|Nov 14, 1987||Division One||Norwich City||4-2||A||2|
|Nov 17, 1987||League Cup||Stoke City||3-0||H||1|
|Dec 19, 1987||Division One||Everton||1-1||H||1|
|Jan 9, 1988||FA Cup||Millwall||2-0||H||1|
|Feb 13, 1988||Division One||Luton Town||2-1||H||1|
|Feb 24, 1988||League Cup||Everton||3-1||H||1|
|Mar 12, 1988||FA Cup||Nottingham Forest||1-2||H||1|
|Oct 1, 1988||Division One||West Ham United||4-1||A||1|
|Nov 2, 1988||League Cup||Liverpool||1-1||A||1|
|Nov 19, 1988||Division One||Middlesbrough||3-0||H||1|
|Dec 31, 1988||Division One||Aston Villa||3-0||A||1|
|Mar 21, 1989||Division One||Charlton Athletic||2-2||H||1|
|Mar 25, 1989||Division One||Southampton||3-1||A||1|
|May 1, 1989||Division One||Norwich City||5-0||H||1|
|Aug 19, 1989||Division One||Manchester United||1-4||A||1|
|May 2, 1990||Division One||Southampton||2-1||H||1|
|Sep 15, 1990||Division One||Chelsea||4-1||H||1|
|Sep 22, 1990||Division One||Nottingham Forest||2-0||A||1|
|Sep 21, 1991||Division One||Sheffield United||5-2||H||1|
|Sep 28, 1991||Division One||Southampton||4-0||A||1|
|Oct 19, 1991||Division One||Manchester United||1-1||A||1|
|Feb 1, 1992||Division One||Manchester United||1-1||H||1|
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