Monday, 31 January 2011

The David Rocastle story


No, not a particularly depressing new musical. This is my David Rocastle story. One that should probably end with the phrase 'I'm not proud of it...' But, well, I'm not sure. Grey area. You'll see.

Okay, so it's 2001, I'm in the kitchen with my wife, preparing breakfast for our six year old twin daughters. Oh, and it's the North London derby later that day.

My girls know Daddy loves a team called Spurs, and that he really doesn't like a team called Arsenal. They know that for sure this week, as he's been muttering darkly about the encounter to come. They don't know why they feel enmity towards these Arsenal people, but they know they do and they know that when bad things happen to them, life is sunnier. (They're now 16, and still don't know what the word enmity means, incidentally)

Back to the kitchen. Kettle's boiled, toast is buttered and nerves have started to jangle, when suddenly it comes through on the radio that David Rocastle has died. Fucking hell, I thought, that's terrible. Fucking hell, I thought, he must have been my age. Fucking hell, I thought, it's the derby later and there'll be a minute's silence, I hope our lot do it properly and respectfully.

I told my wife about it. Fucking hell, she said.

I explained a bit about his career, about how young he was, about my memories of him playing against us - about how he broke our hearts in the league cup semi-final reply in 1987.

We took the girls' breakfast through to them. They looked up, quizzically. They hadn't been able to make out what we'd been saying in the other room, but they'd picked up on the change in tone and volume. They knew it was odd, maybe a bit scary. Certainly not good.

'What's happened?', they asked. 'Ah, well, we've just heard that an Arsenal player has died.'

They raised their cute little hands in the air, smiled the sweetest of smiles... and shouted, 'Yay!'.

Right, that sounds awful, I realise that.

It is bad, of course it is. But, they just didn't understand the concept of death, honestly they didn't.

We've worked hard since then, talked about life and death, right and wrong, etc. About what a great player Rocastle was and the fine work done in his memory by Arsenal.

And I think we've made progress. By the time Tony Adams kicks the bucket I'm pretty sure they'll be able to at least look upset.

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