The Sport Effect

Martin Keown pays tribute to David Rocastle, who had a gift for bamboozling defenders

I was 15 when I very first fulfilled David Rocastle. He joined Arsenal in 1982, a year after I would joined, with the two of us introduced to the club by scout Terry Murphy. 

I am immensely very pleased to have performed with David, and in truth with all of those associates of what I like to simply call Arsenal’s ‘Class of ’82’. 

As you are going to see in the photo underneath, there was Tony Adams, Michael Thomas, Gus Caesar, Martin Hayes, myself and of study course Rocky. Two players never aspect in this line up for unique reasons but were being extremely a lot part of the team were being Paul Merson and Niall Quinn. 

Class of 82: Martin Keown and David Rocastle (circled), along with Hayes and Adams (back row, 3rd and 4th left), Caesar (right of Keown) and Thomas (front row, third from right)

Course of eighty two: Martin Keown and David Rocastle (circled), together with Hayes and Adams (back row, third and 4th left), Caesar (ideal of Keown) and Thomas (entrance row, 3rd from ideal)

I recall the crew obtaining a rollicking after being knocked out of the FA Youth Cup. That was the very first time we realised, hold on, there is expectation on us listed here. 

Then 1 by 1, we broke into the very first crew. We were being brothers in arms, and David was at the centre of all this. He was immensely talented – skilful, athletic, and solid. David did every thing with a smile and a contact of course.

David had difficulties with his eyesight. Our coaches recognized how he would run or dribble with his head down! I recall 1 of our youth-crew coaches, Tommy Coleman, having him out on the pitch at Highbury to get to the bottom of it. 

He positioned him on the midway line and, in entrance of the total team, requested: ‘Can you see the intention?’ He couldn’t. So they sorted him out with get hold of lenses, and his occupation took off from there. 

Rocastle's Arsenal career took off once coaches realised he needed contact lenses

Rocastle’s Arsenal occupation took off after coaches realised he necessary get hold of lenses

A person regret of mine is that I broke up this tight-knit team by becoming a member of Aston Villa in 1986 after negotiations around a new contract achieved an impasse. 

But I recall David contacting me. ‘Get Villa to get me, as well,’ he reported. A team of us were being at a crossroads, and I would decided to go. 

In the close, David Dein, Arsenal’s vice chairman, realised the predicament, stepped in and designed positive Rocky and the some others stayed. 

I was pleased when Arsenal gained the league in 1988-89, but at the very same time disappointed that I could not share in the joy of my former colleagues.  

Rocastle (R) helped Arsenal win the league in 1989 with Michael Thomas' (L) goal clinching it

Rocastle (R) aided Arsenal earn the league in 1989 with Michael Thomas’ (L) intention clinching it

Individuals early instruction classes in the youth crew were being difficult and established me up well for the relaxation of my occupation. The top quality of the team was at these types of a substantial amount that we were being all pushing each other to the limit, which geared up us to develop into a winning machine. 

Rocky had a go-to transfer: he would toss in a stepover before shifting the ball from his ideal foot to his left, leaving the defender for dead and bursting away. I would giggle when I observed an opponent get as well tight to him, mainly because we all understood what was coming. 

But it wasn’t just the ability, he was also difficult. If he went into a challenge, he acquired up extremely quickly and dived into the upcoming 1. He introduced the ideal out of those all over him. He had that magic about his individuality. 

A person working day Arsenal physio Gary Lewin rounded up a team to go and see David at the clinic but I only located out as well late and couldn’t make it. I wrongly assumed there would be other chances to visit. 

In all honesty, I did not realise how terrible it was. We understood he was having therapy but there was a sensation, a perception, that it would be effective. This was a young gentleman, an athlete. He passed away extremely soon later on, and I by no means acquired to say goodbye. 

The midfielder, nicknamed 'Rocky', is remembered very fondly by Arsenal supporters

The midfielder, nicknamed ‘Rocky’, is remembered extremely fondly by Arsenal supporters  

It is one thing I regret to this working day. With him absent, I felt guilty wanting to have on playing football. Why should I get to sign a new contract at Arsenal when he can’t have on dwelling? 

He died on the morning of March 31, 2001. That very same working day, we had to perform Tottenham. There was a perfectly-observed minute’s silence at Highbury. 

There was a terrific offer of emotion that working day, and it was with terrific satisfaction and immense unhappiness that I was able to perform alongside 1 other member of that youth crew, Tony Adams. It was even more fitting that Robert Pires – carrying Rocky’s old No seven shirt – scored a excellent intention in a two- earn.  

Observe Rocky & Wrighty: From Brockley To The Big Time, part of the BT Activity Films series, tonight at 9pm on BT Activity two.