Arsenal’s Century Club – Frank Stapleton

April 27, 2019

Nineteen players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals for the Club over the past 96 years. The players are sorted by the number of games taken to reach the 100 goal mark. Frank Stapleton sits at number 15.

Francis Anthony “Frank” Stapleton was born 10 July 1956 in Dublin.

Arsenal’s Irish boys

Frank was a tough tackling forward who was an especially good header of the ball. He started his career with Arsenal, joining them in 1972 as an apprentice, after being turned down by Manchester United. He made his first-team debut in 1975 against Stoke City, and went on to form a potent striking partnership with Malcolm Macdonald; the two scored 46 goals between them in 1976–77.

He was Arsenal’s top scorer for the three following seasons, and helped the Gunners reach a trio of FA Cup finals; Stapleton scored one of the goals in Arsenal’s 1979 FA Cup Final 3–2 win over Manchester United, and scored 108 goals in 300 appearances in total for the Gunners. His 100th goal was scored in an away game against Nottingham Forest on Feb 21st 1981.

Stapleton went on to move to Manchester United in 1981 for £900,000 (a fee set by tribunal after the two clubs could not agree). He helped United win the 1983 and 1985 FA Cups. It was in the first of those finals, when he scored against Brighton, in which Stapleton made history by becoming the first man to score for two different clubs in FA Cup Finals.  He left United in 1987, after scoring 78 goals for the club in 365 matches.

He went on to play for Ajax Amsterdam, before returning to England with Derby County, Blackburn Rovers, Aldershot, Huddersfield Town (as player-coach) and Bradford City, where he spent three seasons after a brief period at Le Havre in France. After being sacked as Bradford’s player-manager in 1994, he had a brief spell at Brighton & Hove Albion in the 1994–95 season, playing two games before finally announcing his retirement as a player.

In 1966 Frank moved to the United States to manage Major League Soccer side New England Revolution.

His team was one of only two which did not reach the play offs in Major League Soccer’s inaugural, season he endured a season long battle with the club’s star player and a running feud with some of its more vocal supporters. In the end, however, it was what he perceived as a “vicious” media campaign and the effect it was having on his family that led Frank Stapleton to tender his resignation as coach of the New England Revolution last week.

“I just don’t need any more pressure put on my family,” said Stapleton. “I’m trained to deal with this stuff, but just because you’re married to a footballer doesn’t mean she (wife Chris) can cope with it. Your kids and your family are not immune. I tried to keep them away from it as much as possible, but. In a 17 year professional career at Arsenal, Manchester United, and Ajax, he thought he had endured the best the English tabloid press could dish out, but, he said on a personal level, this was even worse. I don’t expect not to be criticised, but this became an ongoing situation. It was as if there was a rivalry between the Boston papers to see who could be the most vicious.”

GunnerN5

p.s. Unfortunately Frank tarnished his legacy somewhat with his move to Man United –  much in the same way that the dog-fancier has done more recently. Here’s a photo of the younger Vines Brother with Frank at the Old Cowshed taken 10 years ago. Frank still earns his 30 pieces of silver as a United legend on matchdays (as far as I know).

Ant and a nervous-looking Frank

Apparently, Frank was very willing to have his photo taken but got a little jittery when Ant revealed he was an Arsenal supporter and was insistent on knowing why Frank had left the Club. 🙂