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Frank Anthony Stapleton (born 10 July 1956 in Dublin) is a former footballer who played for Arsenal and Manchester United in the English Football League; and for the Republic of Ireland at international level.
Stapleton 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 would go on to form a potent striking partnership with Malcolm Macdonald: the two scored 46 goals between them in the 1976–77 season. Stapleton was Arsenal's top scorer in each of the following three seasons and helped the Gunners to reach a trio of FA Cup finals, scoring one of the goals in Arsenal's 3–2 win over Manchester United in 1979. He scored 108 goals in exactly 300 appearances for the Gunners.
Manchester United career
Stapleton moved 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 FA Cup in 1983 and 1985. He left in 1987, having scored 78 goals in 6 seasons.
He went on to play for Ajax Amsterdam before returning to England with Derby County and Blackburn Rovers. He became player-manager of Bradford City, where he spent three seasons and ended his playing career. He then went to the United States to coach Major League Soccer side New England Revolution.
Stapleton won 71 caps for the Republic of Ireland, scoring a then record 20 goals. It would take over a decade before Niall Quinn and subsequently Robbie Keane broke that record. Stapleton made his international debut in 1976 under then player-manager Johnny Giles in a friendly against Turkey in Ankara at 20 years of age. He scored after only 3 minutes of his debut when he headed home a Giles free-kick at the near post. That "friendly" international finished 3–3 and marked the start of a successful international career for the quiet and reserved Stapleton.
Stapleton was committed to international football insisting that an "international release clause" be inserted into all of his contracts so that he could be released to play in international games for Ireland.
He played a significant role in Ireland's attempt to qualify for the World Cup in Spain in 1982. Goals against Cyprus, Holland and France for Stapleton in the qualifying matches were not enough as Ireland were denied a place at the World Cup by a superior French goal difference. Stapleton was made captain of the national team for the qualifying campaign of the 1986 World Cup though Ireland failed to emulate their fine performance in the 1982 qualifiers.
Jack Charlton took over as the Irish manager in 1986 and he kept Stapleton as captain despite a sometimes uneasy relationship between the two men. Stapleton scored a magnificent diving header in the opening Euro 88 qualifer against Belgium in the 2–2 draw at the Heysel Stadium, Brussels that September. He also scored in the 2–1 defeat by Bulgaria in Sofia on 1 April 1987 and another goal against Luxembourg in the 2–1 victory at Lansdowne Road the following September.
Stapleton captained the Irish team to the 1988 Euro finals and played in all of their matches during the competition including Ireland's victory over England.
After the 1988 European Championships, Stapleton remained on the fringe of the national team during qualification for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, making just two appearances late in the campaign.
He did, however, score an 87th minute goal against Malta in a 3–0 friendly in Valetta just prior to the finals in Italy.
Stapleton is widely regarded as one of Ireland's greatest and most committed strikers.
- Stapleton's Arsenal years (English). Manutd.com (2006-09-15). Retrieved on 2006-09-24.