What became of Paul Dalton!

Discussion in 'Manchester United Forum' started by oskarutd, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. Sep 9, 2004

    oskarutd Full Member

    May 25, 2004

    11:00 - 09 September 2004
    Paul Dalton's wing play was a successful ingredient in the Plymouth Argyle team taken to the brink of a place in the First Division by Peter Shilton and John McGovern in 1994. In that era at Home Park, there were few finer sights than the flank man dashing down the touchline before delivering a dangerous cross or cutting in to have a crack at goal.

    Born in Middlesbrough in 1967, Dalton was spotted by Manchester United while playing non-League football for Brandon United. A transfer fee of £35,000 took him to Old Trafford in 1988, but he did not make a Football League appearance for the Red Devils and a year later he returned to his native North-East in a £20,000 move to Hartlepool United.

    Dalton established his reputation at Victoria Park, making 151 League appearances and scoring 37 goals. He soon became a target for bigger clubs, and it was Argyle who took the plunge in June 1992. The winger was valued at £250,000 - a record purchase for the Pilgrims - when he moved south, with defender Ryan Cross making the opposite journey.

    Dalton suffered a pre-season injury prior to the start of his first term at Home Park, and did not make his League debut for Argyle until the 11th game of the 1992-93 Second Division campaign.

    A substitute appearance in a 2-0 home win over Chester was followed by his first full game, which did not go according to plan. After a 4-0 thrashing at Port Vale, things could only get better.

    They did, eventually. Dalton's first two goals for his new club were scored on a Sunday lunchtime in a Surrey public park, where Argyle overcame Isthmian League outfit Dorking with a hard-earned 3-2 FA Cup first- round victory in November 1992. His first League goal did not arrive until January the following year, in a 3-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers.

    It was a season of under-achievement for the Pilgrims, who were expected to challenge for promotion after relegation the previous term, thanks to the arrival of Dalton and other talented newcomers. But, despite nine goals in 32 League games from their star winger, Argyle could only finish in 14th place in the Second Division, 12 points adrift of a play-off position.

    The following campaign, 1993-94, produced a major improvement. Dalton collected 12 goals in 40 League games as the Pilgrims achieved a finishing place of third. He added another three goals in the FA Cup: another double at an Isthmian League ground to earn a 2-0 win at Marlow and a superb solo strike - probably his best goal for the club - in a fourth-round tie against Barnsley.

    In the League, Dalton was often in effervescent form on the wing. As well as his own decent scoring record, he also made goals for Steve Castle, Kevin Nugent and Dwight Marshall, who all equalled or surpassed his own tally of a dozen goals. His skill and vision deserved to be displayed at a higher level, but Burnley ended Argyle's promotion dreams with victory in the promotion play-off semi-finals.

    The 1994-95 campaign was supposed to be an opportunity for Argyle to put the previous term's play-off disappointment behind them. Shilton had retained most of the talented squad who had almost achieved promotion, and had added an expensive centre-half, Peter Swan, to his armoury. Much was expected.

    Dalton was still a key member of the Pilgrims' set-up, but he was injured in the fourth game of the season - a 2-0 defeat at Hull City in August 1994 - and did not reappear in the first team until January the following year. By then the damage had been done. Argyle were in the relegation zone and Shilton had been sacked. The only way was down.

    During Dalton's enforced absence, Shilton had tried out several players on the left flank, including youngsters Chris Twiddy and Sam Shilton (the manager's son) plus on-loan Phil Barber, but none of the understudies did the business.

    Dalton returned to the starting line-up in February and held on to his place for the rest of the season, but his tally for the term of 26 League games and four goals was less than what the Pilgrims needed - especially as another key attacking player, Steve Castle, also missed about half the campaign due to injury.

    Argyle were relegated to the Third Division in May 1995, and three months later Dalton - after 98 League games and 25 goals for Plymouth - was sold to Huddersfield Town for a fee of £125,000. The Pilgrims' new manager, Neil Warnock, had been poached from the Terriers.

    After 98 League games for Huddersfield, and three on loan at Carlisle United, Dalton's full-time career in football came to an end. He played on in the non-League game back home in the North-East for Gateshead and then Dunston Federation Brewery before calling it a day.