Remember Rocky – Interview with Ryan Rocastle revisited.

The past few days I have been suggesting we all change profile pictures to ‘Rocky Rocastle’ until the 31st March as a mark of respect to an Arsenal Legend who died tragically young at the age of 34, on that date in 2001. Many readers have done so but many younger fans are not so aware of David Rocastle and what he meant to this great club, and those who watched him, in my case  from the North Bank Highbury, in the later 1980s and early 90s.

Well Rocky was a legend for so may reasons and for me, as Brady was in the 70s, he was my Arsenal of the 80s. A home grown talent with the flair of a Brazilian, a shoulder drop that seemed to fool every full back again and again, vision, an accurate pass and the ability to score spectacular goals. He helped England qualify for the 1990 World Cup and the 1992 Euros and was taken to neither. Under appreciated by a foolish Graham Taylor perhaps but not by Graham or the Highbury faithful. Only sold in 1992 to Leeds due to recurring injuries, a day on which he openly wept, Rocky was Arsenal from 1986 to 1992 and integral to 2 League titles and in 1987 our first trophy for 7 years, the Littlewoods Cup.

In fact it was Rocky’s last minute winner in the Semi-final replay at White Hart lane that was the birth of his legendary status, and voted number 30 in the all time greatest Arsenal moment – Here is the text from Arsenal.com

The final whistle – and extra time – beckoned, but then came a moment to savour for Arsenal fans. A shot from Allinson rebounded into the path of David Rocastle. Rocky took the ball in his stride and calmly stroked Arsenal’s winner past Clemence. Arsenal had never been ahead in a tie which had stretched to five hours, and yet they won it in the final seconds.

This semi-final gave birth to the fanzine ‘1 nil down 2one up and repeat scoreline an come back in the final cemented the scoreline in Arsenal folklore and gave me the name for my blog

I could go on but others will do it so much better than I. However what I am going to do with the kind permission of David’s son Ryan, is to repost the interview we did back in December to mark the 125th Anniversary celebrations.

For those who have read before please read again and for those who missed it in December or who are less familiar with Rocky and what he means to so many Gooners please enjoy and begin to understand:

December 16th 2011…..

It has been an historical week for our beloved Arsenal. With statues of legends unveiled and a multitude of Gunner heroes honoured before the Everton match last Saturday, but for us middle aged Gooners it was also a time to remember the legend who could not be there.

David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle graced our team in the late eighties and early nineties, winning two titles and a League Cup under George Graham. Whenever the ill-informed recall this side as ‘boring’ and functional, I always remind them that we lost one game in the whole 1991 season, scoring a hatful of goals in the process and had in the team one of the most graceful and skilful midfielders of his era in Rocky.

I was fortunate enough to be able to conduct an online interview with David’s son Ryan, but before hand I had sent him this, a quote that Ryan did remember his dad sharing with him at a young age:

‘I ran home immediately to my wife in excitement and said, ‘I’ve seen the nearest thing to a Brazilian footballer you’ll ever see in our Academy…..and he’s from Lewisham!’ –  on Rocky Rocastle.

I consider myself enormously honoured that Ryan, 20, agreed to this interview. After all I am just a passionate fan and his father was a hero to me when I was Ryan’s age. I hope you enjoy the questions and honest answers and take the opportunity to pay your respects to his father, a true home-grown Arsenal legend by leaving a tweet. Ryan will be checking my TL.

Here is how the interview went down:

Hi Ryan, I saw you pictured with Thierry Henry last week at the celebrations at the Emirates. Do you still get to most games and where do you sit?

Yeah that was just after he had been given his statute, I’ve met him a few times now and he’s such a good guy. I go to the Emirates as often as I can and sit just behind the away dugout. I really like the seat.

I watched your dad so many times and have so many wonderful memories of his skill and talent. What are you favourite memories of your father as a footballer?

As a player you have watched him many more times than me. I’m only 20 so did not really get to see him play too much. I remember when he was playing in Malaysia towards the end of his career, he scored a brilliant free kick, but from his time at Arsenal I’ve mostly seen video of youtube clips. From those clips the best bit of skill was the goal at Old Trafford.

For those who haven’t seen this incredible goal please view HERE.

Many of his team-mates were Pall bearers at the funeral. Are you and the family still in touch with Davis, Adams, Thomas, Smudger, Wright etc?

The ones who we are in most contact with are Smudge and Mickey (Michael Thomas). Smudge is my little sister’s godfather and we keep in contact with him a lot. I’m very good friends with his daughters so we see each other as often as we can. Mick comes round quite a bit as well and we are also very close to his family. Wrighty is Wrighty – you won’t hear from him in ages and then suddenly he just turns up at the door, or will send you a random message. I also bumped into Paul Davis and his son the other day at an Arsenal game funnily enough.

Your dad’s great quote, ‘Remember who you are and who you represent’ is so powerful. Do you think the modern day Arsenal player understands what it means to represent the Arsenal?

That quote always makes me laugh a little bit. It’s quite intellectual for a footballer isn’t it? I think maybe the quote is not as powerful as it used to be amongst players because they probably don’t know a lot about the history of the club and its tradition. However, I think quite a few of the present team are either Arsenal fans or have been at Arsenal for a while so maybe they understand it a bit more.

Were you blessed with your father’s talent to any degree and if so do you still play at all and in what position?

Unfortunately not really. I played for my local and school team and really enjoyed it but nothing more serious than that. I played left wing but am right footed so liked to cut in. A bit like Gervinho, but with better finishing lol!!

I was at the Spurs semi-final at Old Trafford six weeks after your dad’s tragic passing. The continuous chanting of Rocky moved me to tears, so it must have been amazing and so moving for you at only 9 to be the mascot at Cardiff for the final?

To be honest, that was the day I became a proper Arsenal fan. Before then I always followed them a bit because Dad did but was not that into it. Then being the mascot was an amazing experience, I still remember it very clear, I was sad that we lost but the day was incredible, one I’ll never forget no doubt.

I gather from some of your tweets that you are studying at present. What are you studying and what do you hope the future holds?

I study Journalism, but I’m not a bad person lol!! I’m not really sure if Journalism is for me or if I’ll go into it after Uni, but I wanted to get a degree in something and this interested me at the time. I would quite like to go into TV or entertainment or something like that and I guess journalism could lead me there. There’s also the option of being a football agent as I do have the contacts for it and has always interested me but we’ll see.

Your dad broke through in the late 1980′s with so many home-grown talents such as Thomas, Hayes, Merson, Quinn, Adams etc. Which of the current youngsters do you rate?

There are the obvious ones like Wilshere, Ramsey and  Szczesny, but one who has really impressed me this season is Oxlade-Chamberlain. Not going to lie, I was very under whelmed with this signing in the summer because I didn’t feel we needed another youngster. However, I’m happy to say I was wrong. He’s going to be a huge talent and easy to see why we splashed all that money on him.

It must be special when you hear the whole crowd sing your dad’s name. He was one of us. Can you describe the emotions you feel?

I thought about this question for a while. It’s not really something I can describe. It’s a mixture of emotions I guess, but it’s great that the fans still remember him and sing his name.

We have been so close but so far when it comes to trophies in recent seasons. Do you believe we can win something in 2012?

For sure we can win something. This is my favourite Arsenal team for a long time, probably since 07/08. Thing is you can tell the players are happy to be playing for each other now and also happy to be playing for Arsenal which is important.

So many fans are desperate for big name signings. I’m not convinced we need to strengthen so much. Do you think we need to buy and if so who?

I think we definitely need another striker. I know we have probably the best striker in the world at the minute, but I think he needs a little help up there and there’s always the risk of an injury. I’ve heard David Villa is unhappy at Barca. I know it’s unlikely to happen, but for me that would be an amazing signing. He can also play on the wings if needed and in home games we could drop Robin’s position a little deeper to accommodate both. He would also be a marquee signing – Arsene I hope your reading! (shortly after answering, Ryan heard the news on David Villa’s leg break so has updated his request to Pato from Milan, which he says should still work)

Have you met Arsene Wenger apart from at your father’s funeral and if so what is he like to chat with?

I met him at the Blackburn game last season on the 10th anniversary of Dad’s death. I really like Arsene, he’s just a very nice man and asks you a lot of questions and also has a great sense of humour. I told him I was studying journalism and he gave me and evil look then said ‘could be worse you could be a referee’. Hahaha!!

Thanks so much for taking the time Ryan. Gooners will love this small insight into your life. Do you have a message for all our readers?

No problem. Yeah thanks for all the love that people show me and my family and hope the answers weren’t too long!

Interview conducted by David Seager in December 2011

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