twenty years, bro. In a way, I’ve been dreading the build up to it. You’re always on my mind but I try to not think of that specific day. You know what I mean?
Everyone knows how close we were. Both Brockley boys, you were up in Turnham, I was just down the road. We would see each other in school despite you being younger. Football meant everything to you man. Do you remember when you dragged a bunch of us to this football tournament literally minutes before it was due to start? We beat everyone! A bunch of us and our mate who played rugby. Everyone had parents and supporters, we just had each other. It was always just us.
At 15, you were already operating at a totally different level. You always carried yourself with a level of professionalism we couldn’t understand. You would leave Brockley to go all the way to Stoke Newington, just to get picked up by Paul Davis so you could go training. On your way, you would stop by the estate and tell me “I don’t care how you do it, you have to get into the game.”
I remember the frustration in your face detailing these training sessions with reserves and seeing players you thought were not on my level. I remember the club said you weren’t allowed to play on the estate or park anymore. You did anyway because everyone knew the main rule was to not touch or tackle you. That was the law! We were playing with DAVID ROCASTLE bro! You were our hero. You had made it in our eyes.
You saw something in me I couldn’t even see in myself. It got to a point where I stopped turning up to those sessions because I knew you would be there, hounding me with the same message. If I’m being honest, I was embarrassed. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become someone that young players and parents speak to and ask for advice. It’s not something I take lightly. I think about what you would have said to them, what you said to me, the things you told me to improve. As much as the game has changed, it’s still the same.
We weren’t just friends, we were brothers. You would come to watch me play for Palace religiously. And then Arsenal happened. Think about how many times we acted out being in the same team one day. Wright to Rocastle. Rocastle back to Wright. Two Brockley boys.
That night before our first game as teammates, we must have spoken for over five hours. Even in that moment where I was still doubting myself, you were reassuring me as always and telling me how you would make everyone work to get me my goals so I could settle in.
I’ll never forget that moment when you told me you had been sold to Leeds. Everything froze. I didn’t know how to feel and I still don’t like thinking about it. There was no Arsenal without you. I took it personally. I joined because of you. I went into those offices demanding answers.
We had come too far. I couldn’t stop thinking of that moment against Leicester when I scored my first goal and saw you, Paul Davis, Michael Thomas and Kevin Campbell coming towards me.
I still think about our holidays together with our families. The pictures serve as reminders of those precious moments. I’m Uncle Ian now bro, and just know that I’ve got them. Without fail, the first call I get on Father’s day is from Mel. You would be so proud of Ryan, Monique, Mel and Janet. They’ve worked so closely with the club to make sure your legacy lives on.
We’ve had a crazy year (long story) but I can’t wait to hear our fans sing your name home and away.
Love you always my brother,
As part of the anniversary, David’s son, Ryan has guest edited the matchday programme. The club gives its sincere thanks to Ryan and his family who have guided this very special edition which carries Rocky’s name in place of the famous Arsenal masthead. Ryan has spoken to a number of former players including Tony Adams, Michael Thomas, Paul Davis and Alan Smith who recall their cherished memories and recollections of David Rocastle, the player and the man. The programme also includes this heartfelt letter written by Ian Wright to his friend and former team mate.
Purchase here – arsn.al/yB6GraR
As a further commitment, Arsenal in the Community will annually work with seven young people to be guided and mentored via a leadership programme in David Rocastle’s name. Working closely with the young people, we will provide a unique experience to gain valuable life skills, volunteering opportunities and a chance to stand up and be leaders in their own communities. The programme will be delivered drawing on David Rocastle’s characteristics and qualities by which he’s fondly remembered.