Born in 1838 in Genoa Luigi Rocca left Borzonasca, on the Italian Riviera, in 1865 to search for his slice of fame and fortune. At the age of 27 , Louis would eventually arrive in Manchester at the peak of the Industrial Revolution. Louis Luigi lived at number 3 Ancoats St, marrying an Italian girl Maria Casinelli and started a family like many others in the area, would start a vibrant ice cream business in 1872 but youngest son Louis Jr had other plans. At the age of 12 he joined a local football team as tea-boy, a position that proved to be the first rung on a ladder that would eventually cement his name in the club’s hall of fame. After then being tasked with looking after the first team kit the young Italian Manc was also to become the club’s first groundsman.
However, Louis was to make his first real mark on the history and future of the club on April 26 1902 at a meeting to choose a new name for Newton Heath LYR. Having relocated to Clayton some years earlier, ‘the Heathens’ now saw no need to retain the unpopular ties with the area that borders Ancoats to the slightly north slightly east side of Manchester. After Manchester Central and Manchester Celtic had been rejected it was Louis who proposed the legendary words ‘Manchester United’.
This was hardly the end of Rocca’s immense influence over the future direction of the club. It was he who persuaded James W Gibson to famously save United from near certain bankruptcy in the 1930s and it was he who introduced the first organised scouting system in British football. One that would eventually lead to the finest crop of young footballing talent these shores have ever seen. However, probably his finest hour was being the ‘convincer’ in wrestling Sir Matt Busby away from the clutches of Liverpool where he was seeing out his playing career. Busby had previously played with Manchester City and Rocca had maintained a friendship developed through the local Catholic Church. The rest as they say is history.
Louis Rocca, born in Ancoats, Manchester was to be spared the pain of Munich, but equally never really experienced the immense glory and worldwide renown that would follow, For someone who dedicated over half a century to the cause he is rarely given the credit for such unswerving loyalty.