Irish Footballers that Played for Man Utd – Frank Stapleton
Frank Stapleton – Introduction
Frank Stapleton was born in Dublin on 10 July 1956. He originally left Ireland in 1972 as a young teenager to join London club Arsenal. He shared his time at Arsenal with fellow-Irishmen David O’Leary and Liam Brady and he scored a goal for the Gunners against Manchester United in the Londoners 3-2 victory in the 1979 FA Cup Final. Ron Atkinson paid £900,000 to sign the Irish centre forward to United in August 1981. There was a some irony in this as Frank Stapleton had been rejected by Manchester United as a teenager.
Frank Stapleton & Manchester United
Frank Stapleton made his Manchester United debut on 29 August 1981 in the old First Division against Coventry City. It wasn’t a happy trip to Highfield Road as United lost the match 2 – 1.
In his third match for United Stapleton scored his first goal for the club against Ipswich Town but yet again the Reds lost 1 – 2. Despite this poor start to the season United finished third in the league and Stapleton ended the season as the club’s top scorer with 13 goals in 44 appearances in all competitions. He repeated this feat in the following seasons – 1982/83 & 1983/84 – scoring 19 goals in each season. Frank Stapleton scored his only hat trick for Manchester United on 19 November 1983 in a League match at Old Trafford against Watford.
Frank Stapleton Wins FA With Manchester United
Manchester United finished in third place in the League in his first year with the club and this was the closest he went to winning the title. A succession of fourth places eventually led to Ron Atkinson being replaced by Alex Ferguson. The one season that Stapleton spent with United under Ferguson the Reds finished in eleventh place. However he did enjoy Cup success. In 1983 and 1985 Frank Stapleton won the FA Cup with Manchester United.
In 1983 Stapleton scored United’s first goal against Brighton & Hove Albion. Although it did take a replay the Reds lifted the trophy. Stapleton’s goal gave him the unique distinction of having scored goals in the Cup final with two different teams. United repeated the feat in 1985 beating Everton 1 – 0. This match was notable because Kevin Moran became the first player to be sent off in an FA Cup final.
Once Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford he was determined to put his own stamp on the club. Towards the end of the 1986/87 season more and more of his appearances were as a substitute. The writing was on the wall and in July 1987 he was transferred to Ajax in Holland. Frank Stapleton’s last match for Manchester United was on 2 May 1987 against Wimbledon at Old Trafford. United lost 0 – 1. Stapleton’s last goal for Man Utd was against Newcastle United on 1 January 1987 in a 4 – 1 home win. Frank Stapleton is the second highest Irish goal scorer – after George Best – for Manchester United.
Frank Stapleton – Republic of Ireland Career
Frank Stapleton made his Ireland debut on 13 October 1976 against Turkey in a friendly in Ankara. Except for the result – it was a 3-3 draw – it was a dream debut as Stapleton scored his first Irish goal three minutes after the start. John Giles was the Irish football manager at the time. It wasn’t until his ninth match for Ireland that Stapleton tasted victory at international level. It was against Denmark at Lansdowne Road (now Aviva Stadium) in a 2 – 0 victory in a 1980 Euro qualifier.
Despite some close calls with Giles and Eoin Hand as manager it wasn’t until after Jack Charlton took up the reins in 1986 that Ireland and Stapleton got the opportunity to play at a major football championship finals. Frank Stapleton was the Irish captain on the day that Ireland beat England in Stuttgart in the Euro 88 finals.
He also travelled with Ireland to the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy although he was not a regular team member. He only played in two of the 1990 World Cup qualifiers but he did notch his record-making 20th goal for Ireland in a pre-tournament friendly against Malta – Stapleton’s last match for Ireland. With 20 goals Frank Stapleton held the Republic of Ireland all time goal scoring record from 2 June 1990 until 6 October 2010 when Niall Quinn scored his 21st goal against Cyprus.
Frank Stapleton – Manchester United & Ireland Statistics
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