Frank Stapleton had been the leading striker at Arsenal for at least three years by the summer of 1981, arguably since his former team-mate Malcolm Macdonald had sustained a career-ending knee injury in August 1978.
However, in the six seasons heâ€™d spent at Highbury, Stapleton had only a single FA Cup winnersâ€™ medal (from the triumph over Manchester United in 1979) to show for his efforts. The team had evolved to a degree. However, the loss of his fellow Dubliner, the hugely talented Liam Brady, to Italian giants Juventus during the summer of 1980 was a bitter blow. It was also perhaps an indication that the club werenâ€™t quite as ambitious as they needed to be, nor indeed as driven as Frank was himself to continue to be successful.
Accordingly, when new United boss Ron Atkinson asked his board to approach Arsenal about the possible transfer of Stapleton to Old Trafford that July, the whole matter ended up at a transfer tribunal. Stapleton was open to the move north to join the club he had supported as a boy. However, not surprisingly, Arsenal were loathed to lose their leading hitman and demanded a huge seven-figure fee for him.
Frank Stapleton signed for Manchester United for a fee of Â£900,000 on 1 August 1981. The figure was set by a tribunal as the two clubs could not agree on a suitable sum. One thing that can be said for sure in hindsight is that United certainly got value for their investment, as Frank would spend the next six years repaying the clubâ€™s faith in his abilities.
One thing that may not be so well known is that Stapleton insisted that a clause be inserted into his contract that forbade the club from preventing him meeting up with the Republic of Ireland squad for international matches. His loyalty to his country was a prime consideration for the quiet Dubliner.
The United side that he joined had a lot more potential than theyâ€™d shown over the previous couple of years under Dave Sexton. Quite a few faces still remained from the team that Stapleton had helped Arsenal triumph over in that May 1979 FA Cup showdown. They included Gary Bailey, Martin Buchan, Gordon McQueen, Arthur Albiston, Steve Coppell, Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari.
Having cost a substantial fee, Atkinson threw Stapleton straight into the mix in the opening game of the season at Coventry City, though neither he nor partner Garry Birtles could find the net as United lost 2-1.
Stapleton scored his first goal for his new club on his third appearance, though that goal couldnâ€™t prevent United losing 2-1 at home to a very strong Ipswich Town side.
Indeed, it would take the arrival of combative midfielder Remi Moses from West Brom in mid-September to herald Unitedâ€™s first win, a 1-0 victory over Swansea City thanks to a rare Birtles goal.
By the time Bryan Robson was signing his first United contract on a table set up out on the pitch on 3 October 1981, Stapleton had already endeared himself to the Red Devils legions with four goals in eight appearances. That day, he rounded off a 5-0 demolition of Wolves by claiming his fifth goal of the season.
However, despite taking his own tally to 13 goals in 41 games played by the end of the season, Stapleton and United came up short in the hunt for the title. They lost only one more game (eight) than eventual champions Liverpool, and had easily the best defensive record in the entire First Division after conceding only 29 goals in 42 games. However, their inability to turn draws into victories left Atkinsonâ€™s men trailing home nine points behind Bob Paisleyâ€™s high-scoring Liverpool team and five behind runners-up Ipswich Town.
On a personal level, though, Stapleton could look back on his debut season at Old Trafford with some satisfaction. He and wife Christine had made the switch to the North-West of England smoothly enough. Frank was a valued and respected member of an ambitious squad that had been given fresh drive by the arrival of Robson and Moses.
Pairing With Whiteside…
The summer witnessed the World Cup Finals in Spain. One genuine hero to emerge from that tournament was Unitedâ€™s Northern Irish youngster Norman Whiteside. The 17-year-old Belfast lad had broken Brazilian legend PelÃ©â€™s record as the youngest player ever to appear at a Finals. After a fine summer with Billy Bingham’s impressive Ulstermen, he would now be pressing Atkinson for starts in Unitedâ€™s forward line.
Another young man making his bow at Old Trafford was a quiet centre-back signed from St. Patrickâ€™s Athletic in Dublin, Paul McGrath. No doubt Stapleton helped to make his fellow Irishman feel welcome at his new club.
Also joining the club from Ipswich Town was Dutch left-sided midfield man Arnold MÃ¼hren, who had fabulous ability to link play together.
The new season got off to a great start with two 3-0 victories in succession, over Birmingham City (with Stapleton opening his account for the season on the first day) and Nottingham Forest. However, despite winning five of the first six games, the long-time inability to turn single points into victories soon returned to haunt Atkinsonâ€™s men. Just two victories in over two months between 18 September and 27 November killed off any momentum that had been built in the early weeks of the season. The poor Christmas period that followed extinguished any hope of bringing the Division One title back to Old Trafford.
Haunting The Arsenal…
However, the League Cup competition had witnessed United make good progress, with some favourable ties against lowly Bournemouth and Bradford City. Southampton were beaten 2-0 at Old Trafford in early December. When the team destroyed Brian Cloughâ€™s Nottingham Forest 4-0 on 19 January 1983, excitement grew that silverware was now on the horizon.
Standing between the Red Devils and a Wembley appearance were familiar faces for Stapleton: Arsenal. Since they largely comprised of the same players he had left behind some 18 months earlier, Stapleton would have enjoyed adding one of the four goals United managed to score in a rip-roaring 4-2 first leg victory at Highbury. One of the Gunnersâ€™ replies came from the man who had been signed to replace Frank in North London, former Forest striker Tony Woodcock.
The return leg was won 2-1, to take United through to the decider against old foes Liverpool. However, ominously, skipper Bryan Robson had sustained an ankle ligament injury in that game and would miss the Wembley date with Bob Paisley’s team.
By then, the League Cup was not the only prize taking up attention. Whilst form in the league was still too patchy to recover from the pre-Christmas slump, the sideâ€™s performances in the FA Cup were extremely solid. West Ham were beaten 2-0 in Round Three, Stapleton grabbing the important second goal. Luton Town were likewise beaten 2-0 in the next round, then Derby County by a single Whiteside goal in Round Five.
What A Goal!!
The quarter-final draw had a very, very capable Everton team, on the verge of great things under the legendary Howard Kendall, visiting Old Trafford on 12 March. In front of a jam-packed vociferous crowd, United, without the injured Robson, huffed and puffed to find a goal, without success. Then, two minutes into stoppage time, and with everyone anticipating a replay at Goodison Park which Everton would have been favourites to triumph in, Frank Stapleton scored one of the finest goals of his career.
A long hopeful ball forward towards the Stretford End from the halfway line by Ray Wilkins had been headed back towards Stapleton by sub Lou Macari. As nonchalantly as youâ€™ll ever see, Stapleton struck it first-time with the outside of his right boot into the far left-hand corner, giving experienced Toffees keeper Jim Arnold absolutely no chance. According to many in the ground that day, the roar that greeted that goal was the loudest heard at Old Trafford for many, many years.
Downed by Whelan
Two weeks later, the first attempt to win silverware at Wembley in the 1983 League Cup final ended in disappointment against bitter rivals Liverpool. Without Robson, United knew they were the underdogs against the reigning league champions.
Despite taking a deserved early lead through a great turn and finish from Norman Whiteside (who by then had firmly announced his arrival on the scene with some great goals, despite his youthful age), United couldnâ€™t add to their lead.
Liverpool eventually made their incessant pressure pay when left-back Alan Kennedy rifled home a long-range effort, the bounce on which appeared to deceive Gary Bailey. However, after 90 minutes the sides couldnâ€™t be separated.
In extra time, and with weary limbs much in evidence, Irish ace Ronnie Whelan won the game for the Merseysiders with a goal worthy of winning any game in the world, spectacularly curling right-footed past Bailey from the edge of the area. It might be one of the best strikes the old stadium ever witnessed.
Battling with Brighton
That Wembley loss acted as a spur to the United lads when they faced up to Arsenal once again, this time in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park on 16 April. By then, hopes of the title had long since disappeared, with talisman Robson having missed a significant number of games through injury. However, he was back for the crucial Cup game, and showed what the team had missed during his absence when contributing one of Unitedâ€™s two goals in a 2-1 victory, the other coming via a superb volleyed finish from Whiteside.
That win gave Stapleton the chance to add to the solitary winnersâ€™ medal he had won in the 1979 decider. This time it would be underdogs Brighton, playing in their first major final in the clubâ€™s entire history, that he faced in the red of Manchester United. The team that Ron Atkinson named for the final on 21 May was as follows:
Mike Duxbury, Kevin Moran, Gordon McQueen, Arthur Albiston;
Alan Davies, Ray Wilkins, Bryan Robson (c), Arnold MÃ¼hren;
Frank Stapleton, Norman Whiteside.
Ashley Grimes was the unused substitute.
To say that the 1983 FA Cup final, staged on a bright sunny Saturday, did not go to plan would be a huge understatement. Scottish striker Gordon Smith gave the Seagulls a shock early lead, which they held until Stapleton himself equalised on 55 minutes. That goal gave him the record as the first man to score for two different clubs in FA Cup finals.
By then, United knew they were â€œin a gameâ€, as the action swung from end to end. As limbs started to grow weary, United snatched the lead, and what a goal it was to do so! After winning the ball in midfield, Arnie MÃ¼hren had spotted Ray Wilkins in an advanced position out on the right side and swung a delicious cross-field ball out to the genial Englishman. Not noted as a goalscorer, Wilkins had nonetheless cut back onto his left foot and bent an exquisite curling shot around Brighton keeper Graham Moseley from the edge of the areaâ€¦
It truly deserved to be the winning goal. It wasnâ€™t.
With only three minutes remaining, future England centre-back Gary Stevens claimed an equaliser for the South Coast club. So it was 2-2 with just minutes remaining.
Less than a minute later, Gordon Smith should have won the game for the Seagulls, only to be denied by a fabulous point-blank save from Gary Bailey. It was a moment immortalised for all time by legendary radio commentator Peter Jonesâ€™ shrill line â€œâ€¦.and Smith must score!â€ Thankfully he didnâ€™t.
Extra-time couldnâ€™t produce a winner, and so a replay was needed. That took place five days later, and was as unlike the original game as it was possible to be. This time Stapleton and his United team-mates steam-rollered Brighton, the game over by half-time. United led 3-0 at the break thanks to a brace from Bryan Robson and a goal from young Whiteside. MÃ¼hren added a penalty just after the hour to make it 4-0 (Robson had refused the opportunity to take it and potentially score a hat-trick in the final).
Frank Stapleton had a second Cup winnersâ€™ medal for his mantelpiece.
Big Ron’s Reds Lead the Way!
Optimism at Old Trafford was understandably much in evidence as season 1983-84 approached. United produced a commanding 2-0 win over rivals Liverpool at Wembley in the Charity Shield curtain-raiser on 20 August, thanks to a brace from captain Bryan Robson. That just added to the feeling that United could land a major trophy in the form of the long-awaited League championship or the European Cup-Winnersâ€™ Cup.
A week later, Stapleton was once again quick off the mark, taking just 17 minutes of the new league season to register his first goal in a 3-1 win over Q.P.R. Indeed, his start to the campaign continued in that rich vein. He notched the second goal against his former pals at Arsenal in Unitedâ€™s 3-2 win on 6 September.
He then claimed the only goal of the game at the Stretford End in a 1-0 win over champions Liverpool on 24 September, incidentally the first game your then 12-year-old author ever witnessed â€˜liveâ€™ at the ground. It was a good day.
By 29 October, United were sitting pretty at the top of the table with 25 points, having won eight and drawn one of their opening 11 games. Only Liverpool, two points behind, were even close. Stapleton had just scored twice in a 3-0 home win over Wolves to take his tally for the season to six goals.
Four days later he took his tally in the European Cup-Winnersâ€™ Cup to three goals in four games as United overcame Bulgariaâ€™s Spartak Varna 4-1 on aggregate to set up a spring double-header with Diego Maradona and mighty Barcelona in Round Three.
Stumped by Stalemates…
However, as would become the â€œnormâ€ for the remainder of the decade, United couldnâ€™t maintain their winning run. Despite claiming a hat-trick on 19 November in a 4-1 win over a very decent young Watford team managed by future England boss Graham Taylor, Stapletonâ€™s goalscoring form deserted him over the busy Christmas period. The teamâ€™s results endured a â€œhiccupâ€ too.
Though they didnâ€™t lose very often, Atkinsonâ€™s men conspired to draw far too many games that they really needed to win to sustain a title challenge to the likes of Liverpool and Nottingham Forest around them.
Stapleton returned to the goals trail with the second in a 3-2 victory over Southampton on 21 January 1984. That win kept United second, a couple of points behind Liverpool. They were joint top scorers in the league with Forest, notching 44 goals after 24 games played.
Frustratingly, though, drawn games with Norwich City, Birmingham City and lowly Wolves represented missed opportunities to both close on and overtake the league leaders. Liverpool retained that two-point gap by the time United turned their attention back to the European tie with Barcelona on 7 March.
Duelling with Diego…
The first leg was in Camp Nou. On that evening the hosts, captained by Maradona, looked a level above their English visitors. They sent the vast majority of the 70,000 crowd home happy when winning 2-0, though their opener was an own-goal by Graeme Hogg and their second arrived with virtually the last kick of the game. It left Atkinsonâ€™s boys with a monumental task to rescue the tie against a strong side containing the best player in the world.
Before that return date, United pressed their claim to be considered serious title contenders by beating Leicester City 2-0, and then demolishing Arsenal 4-0, Stapleton again haunting his former club with the third goal in that fine victory.
So, to 21 March 1984. It would be remembered by United fans for many, many years as possibly the finest display of the Ron Atkinson era, and the loudest the home crowd had been in living memory. In Bryan Robsonâ€™s words, theyâ€™d â€œmade the pitch shakeâ€.
Robson is, quite rightly, remembered as the United hero from that night. Less often recalled is the man whose predatory instincts had him in the right place at the right time to smash home the decisive tie-winning goal in Unitedâ€™s landmark 3-0 victory: Frank Stapleton.
Fade, Fade, Fading Away…
Alas, it was to be the highlight of the season. Ten days later United were brought crashing back to earth at The Hawthorns, going down 2-0 to a very good West Brom side that included big Cyrille Regis. That defeat allowed Liverpool to leapfrog United for top spot.
The draw for the two-legged semi-final of the Cup-Winnersâ€™ Cup had paired United with Juventus. They warmed up for the first leg at Old Trafford by beating Birmingham City 1-0 thanks to a goal from Robson. However, crucially, the skipper suffered a hamstring injury in that game which would prevent him from facing the Italian giants.
Stapleton was in the line-up to face the “Bianconeri” on 11 April but it was a goal from the tragic Alan Davies, whoâ€™d come on for full-back John Gidman, that left the full-time score at 1-1 after Paolo Rossi had given Juventus an early lead. It wasn’t the result Atkinson had wanted, and left the side needing to produce a big performance in Turin.
A dreadful 1-0 defeat in the league at Notts County followed by a 0-0 draw at Watford three days later left United needing to make up ground. Atkinsonâ€™s men warmed up for the return trip to Turin with a fine 4-1 win over Coventry City, which included a brace from the latest â€œbright young thingâ€, Welshman Mark Hughes.
However, Stapleton and company were left heartbroken and out of Europe in midweek. United equalised an early Zbigniew Boniek goal for Juventus through Norman Whiteside on 70 minutes. However, as extra-time loomed, the Reds succumbed to a devastating Rossi winner for the Italians in the final minute in Turin, to lose 3-2 on aggregate. That last minute goal by the 1982 World Cup winning top-scorer tore the heart out of the United team and effectively killed the season.
Just End It Now, Please…
Tired, deflated and missing the influential Robson for the remainder of the campaign, United couldnâ€™t score at home to West Ham the following Saturday; they trailed Liverpool by two points again. A trip to Goodison Park was the last thing they needed on 5 May, and a very creditable 1-1 draw with Everton thanks to a Stapleton equaliser wasnâ€™t enough now. That was confirmed when old nemesis Alan Sunderland returned to haunt them two days later, scoring a late, soul-destroying winner to give relegation-haunted Ipswich Town a shock 2-1 win in Manchester.
It was over.
The season tamely petered out with a 1-1 draw at Tottenham and a 2-0 final day defeat at Nottingham Forest, which left United trailing home in fourth place in what had been a two-horse title race with Liverpool only a few weeks earlier.
Partnered with Whiteside, Frank Stapleton had got 19 goals in 58 games; he started every single club game throughout the season. It would be the last time he would do so.
Competing For a Shirt…
After the gutting disappointment of the final few weeks of the season, summer 1984 witnessed a lot of transfer activity as Ron Atkinson shuffled his pack. “Midfield general” Ray Wilkins surprisingly departed to A.C. Milan. Arriving were right-midfielder Gordon Strachan from Aberdeen, Danish left winger Jesper Olsen and, most pertinently for Stapleton, former Ipswich Town striker Alan Brazil from Spurs. Along with the burgeoning Mark Hughes and strapping Norman Whiteside, the quiet Irishman now had genuinely fierce competition for his place in the team.
Worse, Stapleton had picked up the first bad injury of his career whilst on an end-of-season tour in South America with the Republic of Ireland in June, and wouldnâ€™t make his return to the United side until early October. By then, Brazil and Hughes had struck up a front-line partnership, with Whiteside also in the mix.
An injury to Brazil (who was constantly plagued by back trouble) eventually gave Stapleton a way back into the side in November, but having missed pre-season, he wouldnâ€™t score his first goal until Boxing Day in a poor 2-1 defeat at lowly Stoke City. However, by then United were still very much in the hunt for the league title, just two points behind joint league leaders Tottenham and Everton.
Humbled in Hungary; Ambushed in April
However, as ever, patchy form would plague the clubâ€™s title ambitions as 1985 arrived. Stapleton had ousted Brazil as Atkinsonâ€™s preferred partner for Hughes up front, with Whiteside more often taking up a deeper role behind the front pair. Frank scored the only goal in the Fourth Round 1st leg game against unknown Hungarian minnows Videoton in the UEFA Cup in early March, but couldnâ€™t repeat the trick in the away leg as United suffered a humiliating exit, losing 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 aggregate stalemate.
In the league, United went unbeaten from early January to early April, including consecutive wins over Liverpool (1-0 at Anfield) and Leicester City (2-1 at home) in which Stapleton scored the winning goals. However, two crippling defeats at Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town in April gave Howard Kendallâ€™s brilliant young Everton side the edge at the top of the table, and the title was gone for another season.
Winning at Wembley, Again!
Once again it was the FA Cup that would rescue the season for both United and Atkinson. Having battled past Bournemouth (Stapleton scoring in a 3-0 win), Coventry City, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham, United had collided with Liverpool at the semi-final stage.
The first game ended in a 2-2 stalemate after extra-time at Goodison Park, a game in which Stapleton had given United a 2-1 lead on 98 minutes, only for Paul Walsh to square things up at the death. The replay was a â€˜humdingerâ€™ of a game, staged at Maine Road, which United eventually won 2-1 through two superb second-half goals from Robson and the ferocious Mark Hughes.
It gave Stapleton the opportunity to make it a hat-trick of FA Cup winnersâ€™ medals when he featured as part of Ron Atkinsonâ€™s line-up to face new league champions Everton at Wembley on 18 May. The side looked like this:
John Gidman, Kevin Moran, Paul McGrath, Arthur Albiston;
Gordon Strachan, Norman Whiteside, Bryan Robson (c), Jesper Olsen;
Frank Stapleton, Mark Hughes.
Substitute Mike Duxbury replaced Albiston at half-time.
The game is now remembered chiefly for two things: Kevin Moran becoming the first player ever to be dismissed in a Cup final (for a professional foul on Peter Reid with 12 minutes of normal time remaining), and Norman Whitesideâ€™s superb curling winner for the ten men in red shirts in the second period of extra-time, past the despairing dive of the great Neville Southall.
What perhaps has long been forgotten now is the identity of the man who had to sacrifice himself to go back and fill in Moranâ€™s empty position at centre-back alongside Paul McGrath: Frank Stapleton.
As he trudged up the old Wembley steps to collect his third FA Cup winnersâ€™ medal, there was no-one more deserving of it than the quiet Irishman.
Winning Ten In A Row…
Despite losing the Charity Shield to that superb Everton side on 10 August, United roared into the new league season. Stapleton was part of the side which famously won all ten of its opening Division One fixtures in 1985-86. The Irishman contributed four goals in those games; the third in a 3-1 win at Nottingham Forest, two goals in the opening ten minutes a week later in a 3-0 victory at home to Newcastle United, and the final strike in a 5-1 battering of West Brom at The Hawthorns on 21 September.
The Red Devilsâ€™ first league defeat didnâ€™t arrive until they went down 1-0 to a late Lee Chapman goal at Sheffield Wednesday on 9 November, by which time some bookies had stopped taking bets on Atkinsonâ€™s men claiming the clubâ€™s first league title since 1967.
Over-reliance on Robson Proves Costly
It wouldnâ€™t last. More injury problems for Robson in the autumn deprived the team of a man they simply relied much too heavily upon. Stapleton scored the only goal in a home win over Ipswich Town on 7 December, but by then Liverpool had cut Unitedâ€™s lead at the summit to just two points.
Robson returned for an FA Cup Fourth Round tie with Sunderland in January, but that was sandwiched between two morale-sapping league defeats at home to Forest and away at West Ham which saw United slip to second behind Everton. Worse, Robson damaged his shoulder in that match at Upton Park and would miss two months of football.
With him went Unitedâ€™s title hopes. The goals dried up, wins became draws and draws became defeats, albeit narrow ones. Ron Atkinson had brought in strikers Terry Gibson and Peter Davenport from Coventry City and Nottingham Forest respectively, but they simply joined Stapleton and Hughes in suffering goal droughts at their new club. By then, Mark Hughes had agreed to a transfer to Barcelona in the summer. That seemed to play on the young man’s mind as his form deserted him.
By the time both Stapleton and Davenport netted in a 4-0 win over relegation-haunted Leicester City on the penultimate day of the season, United had slipped down to fourth place, their title dreams dashed for another year. This time, Atkinson didnâ€™t have the â€œfallbackâ€ of a cup run to take the focus away from another failed Division One season, and the pressure on his shoulders mounted.
Stapleton had endured a disappointing season on a personal level too, just 10 goals scored in a total of 51 appearances. By now, he was the veteran striker at the club, particularly when young Mark Hughes left for Barcelona that summer.
The End of Big Ron
The pressure on Ron Atkinson mounted even further when the team began 1986-87 with three dismal defeats in a row, despite Stapleton opening his account for the season in the 3-2 home loss to West Ham on 25 August. The fans’ unhappiness at the sale of crowd-favourite Hughes to Barcelona was compounded by the poor start to the campaign.
Stapleton scored again in the brief highlight of a 5-1 thrashing of Southampton on 13 September, but the team continued to hover around the relegation places when the next three games were all lost.
His final goals for a side managed by Ron Atkinson were in a 1-0 win over Luton Town on 18 October and in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Maine Road a week later.
After a pathetic display resulted in a 4-1 beating at Southampton in a Fourth Round League Cup replay, Atkinson was sacked on 6 November and replaced the same day by Aberdeen boss Alex Ferguson.
Fighting For Fergie
The change in manager lifted a cloud from around the club and witnessed a gradual improvement in results. Stapleton, now a senior player at Old Trafford, led the line in Fergusonâ€™s team every week, usually alongside Peter Davenport, who settled enough to finally show his quality.
Of course, having made such a poor start to the season, the aim for the campaign changed from challenging at the top to simply securing top-flight safety in mid-table, and that was achieved comfortably enough.
However, the quiet Irishmanâ€™s final goal in a United shirt came in a 4-1 victory over Newcastle United on 1 January 1987. Despite appearing numerous times between then and the end of the season on 9 May, Stapleton didnâ€™t find the opposition net again. That statistic, along with his increasing age and Alex Fergusonâ€™s desire to build his own younger team had only one conclusion….
Frank Stapleton: Nomad.
When iconic Dutch masters Ajax offered United Â£100,000 for Stapleton in July 1987, it was an offer neither Ferguson nor Frank himself could turn down. Heâ€™d scored 78 goals in 288 appearances for Manchester United, some of those goals vital in the clubâ€™s attempts to win silverware. Now, Ferguson was focused on revamping the squad, and Frank knew it was time to move on.
Ultimately the move to Holland didnâ€™t work out, Stapleton making only six appearances for the famous Amsterdam club before getting loaned out to Anderlecht in Belgium and then Derby County, for whom he scored one goal in ten appearances.
He spent a season, 1988-89, at Le Havre in France (5 goals in 18 games) before returning to England with Blackburn Rovers, where he plundered 13 goals in 81 games before owner Jack Walkerâ€™s money propelled the Lancashire outfit into the top flight.
By then, Stapleton had moved on to Bradford City as player-manager (2 goals in 68 games), before a short stint in the United States with the New England Revolution in Boston.
Besides his club career, Stapleton had been capped 71 times by the Republic of Ireland, scoring a then-record 20 goals for the men in green shirts. It’s a record that would stand for years until a lad called Robbie Keane pulled on the Irish shirt. Frank had had the great honour of captaining his country during the 1986 World Cup qualifying campaign, and again under Jack Charltonâ€™s management at the Euro â€™88 Finals in Germany, which included a famous win over England.
The Stapleton Legacy: a quiet, modest “family man”
Frank Stapleton is remembered with great affection, particularly by those Manchester United fans like myself who watched him put in committed performance after committed performance in Ron Atkinsonâ€™s sides of the early-mid 80s. He gave total dedication on the park; a determined presence who came alive when the ball entered the opposition penalty area. A model professional, Frank never made headlines for the wrong reasons. Indeed, given the choice, he shunned the limelight entirely, much preferring to simply be at home with his family.
He is an intelligent, modest family man who made the most of his abilities as a productive striker for both Arsenal and Manchester United. He and Christine had two sons, who have now made Frank a grandfather. He occasionally works as a matchday ambassador for his beloved United at Old Trafford.
So, tell me now: who was the first man to score goals for different clubs in FA Cup finalsâ€¦.? ðŸ˜‰