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Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Arsenal star's rocky road
David Rocastle tragically died on Saturday
David Rocastle tragically died on Saturday
David Carlyle Rocastle seemed destined for a glittering career on the world stage.

By the time he was 23 years old, the Lewisham-born midfielder had already collected more than a dozen England caps.

His weaving runs dazzled the home fans at Highbury and by the end of the 1988-89 season he had won his first Division One title to add to his Milk Cup winners' medal two years earlier.

'Rocky' (c) celebrates winning the League title with Arsenal in 1991
'Rocky' (c) celebrates winning the League title with Arsenal in 1991
Yet despite all this, a player who had promised so much ended his career in the ignominious surroundings of Boothferry Park.

Rocastle's talent was evident from an early age and from his initial outings in the first team at Arsenal, it was clear that he had the makings of future international.

Indeed 'Rocky' was named Barclay's Young Eagle of the Year and was a permanent fixture in the England team which was building towards the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

But just as swiftly as he had sprung to prominence, Rocastle found himself out of favour with both his club and country.

Dip in form

As Arsenal struggled to retain their title, so the midfielder's form dipped and the season ended with his exclusion from Bobby Robson's final party for Italia '90.

Although he started the following season back in favour at Highbury, he was dropped in November and then suffered a broken toe, having to battle to make enough appearances to claim his second league championship medal.

However a switch to a central midfield role saw him thrive again for the champions and earn a recall by new England coach Graham Taylor, his mid-career blip seemingly behind him.

Yet he was to leave his spiritual home in a shock move to Leeds, recently crowned kings of English football, in a 2million switch in the summer of 1992.

But it was not to be the dream move either player or club had envisaged.

The midfield gem began to lose some of his sparkle and he endured a battle against injury which would follow him to Manchester City and then Chelsea.

Despite a return to the city of his birth, Rocastle was never able to recapture the form which had made him one of the most exciting properties in English football during his time at Highbury.

'Rocky' punches back

A loan move to First Divison Norwich at the start of 1997 saw Rocky once again at his creative best, pulling the strings in the middle of the park, albeit against a lower standard of opposition.

But despite a successful two-month stint at Carrow Road, a permanent deal was never on the cards and he once again returned to the capital before joining Hull City in Division Three on loan.

Rocastle enjoyed a brief spell at Manchester City
Rocastle enjoyed a brief spell at Manchester City
Rocky found the net on his debut and made 11 appearances for the Tigers before again returning to Stamford Bridge, seemingly content to see out the remainder of his lucrative contract.

He was released in the summer of 1998 - but unbeknown to the footballing world was about to face the biggest battle of his life.

Rocastle seemed to be enjoying the life of a retired professional and even returned to club football in Malaysia but was to face a fight against cancer when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year.

It was a battle he lost on Saturday morning, prematurely ending the life of one of England's most gifted players and one of Arsenal's beloved sons.

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31 Mar 01 |  Football
Football mourns Rocastle's death
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