By Tony Attwood
Frank Stapleton’s career at Arsenal spans the reigns of Bertie Mee (1966-76) and Terry Neill (1976-83).
He joined us in 1972 as an apprentice (having tried his hand first with Man U) and played his first game in 1975 against Leicester in a 1-1 home draw. This was Bertie Mee’s last season – a season in which we finished 17th in the league.
Normally newcomers who have moved up from the A team can be found to have popped in and out of the team for a year or team before settling down, but Frank played virtually every game until February. He ended the season with 23 league starts and four goals. The following season under Neill he played 40 league games, three FA cup and six League Cup matches scoring 17 goals.
His striking partner was MacDonald – the man who made way for him was John Radford.
Frank played in the three cup finals of Neill’s reign, scoring in the Cup win over Man U. He played 300 times and scored 108 goals for Arsenal.
However despite Arsenal’s form improving (the three cup finals were followed by a third place in the first division in 1981) he wanted to leave and was sold to Man U (who had previously rejected him) for a tribunal set fee of £900,000. He won the cup twice more, but not the league title – Man U coming 3rd and 4th or lower in the seasons he played for them. He left Manchester in 1987, after scoring 78 goals for the club in 365 matches.
After that Frank played for a range of clubs:
- Ajax 3 games
- Derby County, 10 games
- Le Havre, 18 games
- Blackburn Rovers,81 games
- Aldershot,1 game
- Huddersfield Town, 5 games
- Bradford City, 68 games (player manager)
- Brighton and Hove, 2 games.
The 1991-4 period with Bradford City saw the club rise from mid-table to just outside the play-offs. Despite this improvement he was sacked in 1994 – the following year the club sank back to mid table although they were promoted to the second division in 1996 eventually reaching the Premier League in 1999.
After this Frank coached New England Revolution in the MLS and then in 2003/4 worked under Sam Allardyce as forwards coach at Bolton.
As a player he also played 71 times for Ireland and scored 20 goals. It is said that he insisted that he should be released for all international games – no matter how that impacted on his commitments to the club that paid his wages. As such he became captain of Ireland for the 1986 world cup qualifiers and the 1988 Euro finals.
He is (by my calculations) 56 this birthday (2012), and I can’t find a record of him still being active in football. So it may be he is retired.
Happy birthday Frank, from all of us at Arsenal who watched you play.
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