On 31 March 2001, the footballing world was racked by the tragic death of David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Born in Lewisham, London, in 1967, Rocky started his career at Arsenal, joining the youth ranks in 1982 before becoming professional in 1984. He made his debut against Newcastle and soon became a first team regular with the arrival of manager George Graham in 1986.

Before he turned 20, Rocky had already managed to win the League Cup with the Gunners in 1987 and would go on to win two league titles in 1989 and 1991. Although he was limited to just 18 appearances in 1991 due to a knee injury, he still played his part in the campaign.

He also won Arsenal Player of the Year in 1986.

The midfielder made a total of 277 appearances for Arsenal during his eight years as a senior player at the club and scored 34 goals.

In July 1992, Rocky was sold to Leeds United, who were champions at the time. Arsenal fans were less than impressed with how Graham handled the situation given Rocky’s service to the club and the fact that the fan favourite didn’t want to leave.

david rocastle
Jul 1987: Portrait of David Rocastle of Arsenal posing with the Littlewoods Cup which Arsenal had won the season before during a photo-shoot held at Highbury, in London. Mandatory Credit: Russell Cheyne /Allsport

Injuries hampered the England international’s time at Leeds and he ended up making just 25 league appearances during the season he was there. He then moved to Manchester City for £2m – a decent sum back in those days.

However, Rocky’s injury woes continued and he could never quite replicate the success he’d enjoyed at Arsenal alongside best friend Ian Wright. After moving to Chelsea, where he was sent out on loan to Hull and Norwich, and then Malaysian club Sabah in 1999, he decided to retire in December.

Rocky only had a short international career with England, picking up 14 caps for the senior team between the ages of 21 and 25 but failing to score.

Two years later after hanging up his boots, Rocky announced that he was suffering from an aggressive form of cancer – non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – and despite receiving chemotherapy, passed away in March at the age of just 33.

You can read more about Rocky’s career and what he meant to the club in Paul’s touching tribute piece, Remembering David Rocastle, and check out Anita’s stunning graphic celebrating his life here.

Sources: Wiki, Arsenal.com.