Midfield creator David Rocastle was a remarkable loan signing who joined Mark Hateley’s foot-of-the-table Tigers in October 1997, scoring on his debut at home to Scarborough and staying for three months. While clearly shorn of his fitness, Rocastle was brimful of class and his superior footballing mind was clear for all who saw him play in the fourth tier of league football. What a remarkbale honour it was for Hull City fans to witness such a fine player during such a humble period of the club’s history.
Rocastle was born in Lewisham and lived on the same housing estate as fellow Arsenal star and England international Ian Wright. At 15 he joined an Arsenal academy overseen by former Hull City manager Terry Neill, and progressed to make his Gunners’ first team debut against Newcastle in September 1985. He scored his first Arsenal goal in February 1986 in a cup tie away at Luton. He rapidly became a first team regular and for the next six seasons during the late 1980s and early 1990s, he contributed to some of Arsenal’s most famous achievements – two league titles and a League Cup win. Alas his time at Highbury coincided with UEFA’s post-Heysel ban on English clubs playing in European club competitions, which denied Rocastle a further route to silverware. He played in the infamous title decider of May 1989 when Arsenal beat rivals Liverpool 2-0 thanks to a late Michael Thomas goal, to snatch the title on goals scored.
In 1992 he moved to Leeds where in a season and a bit he struggled with injuries and made only 25 league starts. Rocastle moved to Manchester City in December 1993, signed by anotehr ex-City manager Brian Horton, then returned to the capital in June 1994 and joined Chelsea. In his first season he assisted the Blues to the European Cup semi-finals, but in the next two years he struggled to make an impression and had loan spells at Hull City and Norwich City.
Rocastle won 14 England under-21 caps between 1986 and 1988 and was soon attracting the interest of Englend senior manager Bobby Robson. Rocastle was given his England debut in a friendly against Denmark in September 1988 and in four years won 14 senior caps, though he was never selected for World Cup or Euros Finals squads. England were unbeaten in all of Rocastle’s 14 games, the most caps won by a single England player without tasting international defeat.
In the 1998 close season Rocastle left Chelsea and signed for Malaysian League side Sabah. But after 18 months injuries once again caught up and Rocastle retired from playing.
In October 2000 Rocastle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects white blood cells. He announced his illness publicly in February 2001 and tragically died at the end of March 2001 at the age of 33. Rocastle was a highly respected and liked footballer and his death shook the football community. Arsenal’s training academy is named after Rocastle, a fitting tribute to fine club man.
Date/Place of Birth: 2 May 1967, Lewisham
Hull City First Game: 11 October 1997, Scarborough H (League Division 3), 30 years, 162 days old
Hull City Final Game: 26 December 1997, Chester City H (League Division 3), 30 years, 238 days old
Arsenal (1985-1992), Leeds United (1992-1993), Manchester City (1993-1994), Chelsea (1994-1998), Norwich City (1997, loan), Hull City (1997, loan), Sabah (1998-2000)
Hull City Record
Career: 11 apps, 1 goalsDavid Rocastle
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