Frank Stapleton signed for Arsenal 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. It was Mee’s last season at the club, as Arsenal 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 two before settling down, but Frank played virtually every game in 1975 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. In all 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 once, but never higher in the seasons he played for them. He left Manchester in 1987, after scoring 78 goals for the club in 365 matches – way below his ratio for Arsenal.
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 – and 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.
Frank Stapleton was appointed assistant manager to former teammate Ray Wilkins with Jordan on 3 September 2014. He is now 65 and so has probably retired – although I have no information on his work since 2014.
Henry Norris at the Arsenal: There is a full index to the series here.
Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever
Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.
100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division
Arsenal today: Untold Arsenal