Rocky & Wrighty: From Brockley to the Big Time Doc of the Week

Rocky & Wrighty: From Brockley to the Big Time

They were childhood friends who grew up on the same housing estate in south London. One was a teenage prodigy, the other a late bloomer, but they both went on to become Arsenal legends. This is their story. BT Sport 2, Thur, Aug 9th 23.30

It’s remarkable to think that two childhood friends with a passion for football growing up on the same small south London estate would both go on to play for one of the biggest clubs in the land. It’s the stuff of dreams, but that’s exactly what happened to David Rocastle and Ian Wright.

One was a stylish midfielder with silky skills, a deft touch and a knack for defence-splitting passes, the other had pace, determination and the cold eye of an assassin in front of goal. Together they wrote their names into Gunners folklore.


Rocky & Wrighty: From Brockley to the Big Time documents the story of Rocastle and Wright who, from their humble origins in the Honor Oak estate, followed a very different path to the top. The film features in-depth interviews with the likes of ex-Gunners boss George Graham, who managed both men, club chairman David Dein, assistant coach Pat Rice and former players Perry Groves, Michael Thomas (another childhood friend), Tony Adams and Paul Davis. Other contributors include the Rocastle family and former Crystal Palace manager Steve Coppell.

Different paths

Rocastle was something of a teenage prodigy and joined Arsenal at the age of 16 before turning professional a year later. He quickly established himself in the first team and became a firm favourite with the Highbury faithful for his cultured right foot and remarkable vision. He played a leading role in Arsenal's dramatic league championship win in 1989 where they claimed the title on the last day with a dramatic 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.


He won a League Cup winners medal in 1987 and added another league championship to his tally in 1991. He earned his first England cap at the tender age of 21, going on to play for his country 14 times in all. He was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 1989.

Wright’s path to the top was not so simple. Having failed to impress in trials at Brighton and Southend as a teenager, he had all but given up on his dream of making the grade as a professional. He was plying his trade in south London’s amateur leagues with Dulwich Hamlet while working on a building site when he was spotted by a Crystal Palace scout who invited him to Selhurst Park for a trial. He signed his first pro contract in 1985 at the age of 22.


Eagles boss Steve Coppell recalls how the striker was confident enough to tell him even before his first start for the club that he harboured ambitions to play for England. It was no idle boast as the striker proved prolific in his first full season, forming a formidable partnership with Mark Bright and netting 33 goals as Palace secured promotion back to the top flight.

Wright enjoyed further success the following season as Palace made it to the FA Cup final. Wright scored within minutes of coming on as a late substitute to force a replay against Manchester United. It proved the trigger for a move to the big time as he secured a transfer to Arsenal in September 1991 for a then club record fee of £2.5m.


He hit the ground running at Highbury with a goal against Leicester on his debut in a League Cup tie followed by a hat-trick on his league bow against Southampton. He went on to win the Golden Boot in his firrst season wth the Gunners with 31 goals in all competitions.

Partnership

The two friends forged a good understanding on the pitch as the midfielder proved an excellent provider for the new striker. But their partnership was to be short-lived as Rocastle was sold to Leeds ahead of the 1992-93 campaign, very much against his wishes. While Wright went from strength to strength at Arsenal, finishing as top scorer for six seasons in a row and setting a new club goalscoring record along the way, Rocastle struggled with injury and soon found himself on the fringes at Elland Road. He moved to Manchester City the following year, but his injury worries continued. He later moved to Chelsea, Norwich and Hull before finishing his career in Malaysia.

Shortly after his retirement Rocastle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and passed away on March 31st 2001, just weeks after revealing publicly that he was ill. Both players remain popular figures among the Arsenal faithful with ‘Rocky’ and ‘Wrighty’ still seen emblazoned on many supporters’ club shirts to this day.


Images: Getty

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