Frank Stapleton - a question for those of you who are even older than I am

lysglimt

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My love for football really started with the Topps footballcards - and for some reason my first hero was Frank Stapleton which made me an Arsenal-fan, but when Atkinson bought Stapleton I became a United-fan. To this day, I even remember where I was when I read in the paper that United bought Stapleton - I was 9 years old.

But since I was 9 years old and United were on tv maybe 3-4 matches a year in the 80s I never really got to watch him play that much - most of what I have seen has been from old videos, you tube-clips etc. But my question to those of you who watched him play regularly (and remember it). His goal-ratio was never amazing - at Arsenal he scored 1 goal in 3 matches, at United it was close to 1 in 4. That is give or take 10 goals a season. Why did he score so few goals ? Didn't he get into a lot of goalscoring opportunities, wasn't he very prolific, didn't the team create a lot of chances ? I mean I know he was a target-player who was good in the air more than a Nistelrooy-type of player, but it still seems strange that his goal return was so poor when he played striker for a club that most of the time ended 3rd or 4th in the league.

Anyone feel like sharing their thoughts ?
 

I’m loving my life

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I remember Fergie pairing him with Davenport in his first season. Not sure it was that successful. In those days you always had 2 forwards, and often one helped the other score. Maybe that was the idea when Atkinson bought him (before my time). Obviously didn’t pan out that well because he was replaced by McClair pretty soon after.
 

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I used to watch him every home game. He was a fine player but you always felt he could do more. I remember it often being said in the media he was the best striker in Europe when he could be bothered. He was never that prolific but his all round game was very good.

It should be noted United didn't score many goals in the league in general, often only 50 something in a league season. But the likes of Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and Gordon Strachan often used to outscore him.
 

kundalini

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My love for football really started with the Topps footballcards - and for some reason my first hero was Frank Stapleton which made me an Arsenal-fan, but when Atkinson bought Stapleton I became a United-fan. To this day, I even remember where I was when I read in the paper that United bought Stapleton - I was 9 years old.

But since I was 9 years old and United were on tv maybe 3-4 matches a year in the 80s I never really got to watch him play that much - most of what I have seen has been from old videos, you tube-clips etc. But my question to those of you who watched him play regularly (and remember it). His goal-ratio was never amazing - at Arsenal he scored 1 goal in 3 matches, at United it was close to 1 in 4. That is give or take 10 goals a season. Why did he score so few goals ? Didn't he get into a lot of goalscoring opportunities, wasn't he very prolific, didn't the team create a lot of chances ? I mean I know he was a target-player who was good in the air more than a Nistelrooy-type of player, but it still seems strange that his goal return was so poor when he played striker for a club that most of the time ended 3rd or 4th in the league.

Anyone feel like sharing their thoughts ?
Frank was brilliant in the air, scoring sensational headers. Other than that, his goalscoring instinct seemed close to non-existent, while his lack of pace was another issue.

I suspect the team was set-up to create chances for Bryan Robson, arriving late in the area, rather than Stapleton. When I used to attend matches during that time, the wide players appeared to be one of the team's strengths, even the likes of Albiston at left-back, provided decent crosses.

Joe Jordan, who was United's main striker before Stapleton, had a similar scoring rate.

When Brian McClair joined, it was obvious even in his first season, that he had a far better understanding of how to score relatively simple goals than either Hughes or Stapleton.
 

68cob

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It should be noted United didn't score many goals in the league in general, often only 50 something in a league season. But the likes of Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and Gordon Strachan often used to outscore him.
No-one at United had scored more than 20 league goals in a season for a good few years before McClair arrived.
 
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Revaulx

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Frank was brilliant in the air, scoring sensational headers. Other than that, his goalscoring instinct seemed close to non-existent, while his lack of pace was another issue.

I suspect the team was set-up to create chances for Bryan Robson, arriving late in the area, rather than Stapleton. When I used to attend matches during that time, the wide players appeared to be one of the team's strengths, even the likes of Albiston at left-back, provided decent crosses.

Joe Jordan, who was United's main striker before Stapleton, had a similar scoring rate.

When Brian McClair joined, it was obvious even in his first season, that he had a far better understanding of how to score relatively simple goals than either Hughes or Stapleton.
Jordan was never prolific, but was fantastic at holding the ball up and creating havoc among defences.

When he left and was replaced by Stapleton at the same time as Atkinson replaced Sexton, we were all expecting more attacking football and a lot more goals. The football did get more attractive, but the goals never came in the expected quantities. Stapleton certainly provided some magical moments, but he did have a habit of drifting in and out of games and overall was pretty disappointing. Having Hughes alongside him later on didn't really help; Davenport even less.

McClair was an absolute revelation in his first season. The goals dried up in his second when Hughes was brought back and Davenport sold. Hughes' return came good eventually, but our overall goal return in his first two seasons back was absolutely lamentable.
 

miked99

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No-one at United had scored more than 20 league goals in a season for a good few years before McClair arrived.
Yeah you're right, it was about 20 seasons or so I think? Long time, anyway.

I was there when he scored his 20th and made history. Midweek game against Luton Town, if I remember rightly. Scored it in front of the Stretford End, the roar was incredible.
 

Josh 76

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Jordan was never prolific, but was fantastic at holding the ball up and creating havoc among defences.

When he left and was replaced by Stapleton at the same time as Atkinson replaced Sexton, we were all expecting more attacking football and a lot more goals. The football did get more attractive, but the goals never came in the expected quantities. Stapleton certainly provided some magical moments, but he did have a habit of drifting in and out of games and overall was pretty disappointing. Having Hughes alongside him later on didn't really help; Davenport even less.

McClair was an absolute revelation in his first season. The goals dried up in his second when Hughes was brought back and Davenport sold. Hughes' return came good eventually, but our overall goal return in his first two seasons back was absolutely lamentable.
Utd finished 2nd in the League in Mclairs first season when he scored all those goals. He was brilliant that season.
 

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Utd finished 2nd in the League in Mclairs first season when he scored all those goals. He was brilliant that season.
71 league goals, of which McClair scored 24.

The following season, with Hughes back, we scored only 45 goals and finished 11th...
 

lysglimt

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Jordan was never prolific, but was fantastic at holding the ball up and creating havoc among defences.

When he left and was replaced by Stapleton at the same time as Atkinson replaced Sexton, we were all expecting more attacking football and a lot more goals. The football did get more attractive, but the goals never came in the expected quantities. Stapleton certainly provided some magical moments, but he did have a habit of drifting in and out of games and overall was pretty disappointing. Having Hughes alongside him later on didn't really help; Davenport even less.

McClair was an absolute revelation in his first season. The goals dried up in his second when Hughes was brought back and Davenport sold. Hughes' return came good eventually, but our overall goal return in his first two seasons back was absolutely lamentable.

McClair was moved into midfield for a while in his second season - which could explain why he didnt score enough. As I recall, Ferguson used Davenport and Hughes up front for 6-7 games until Davenport was sold, and in those games McClair played in midfield.

Jordan was a strange one because he was awful in front of goal in his first 1.5 season at United - 9 goals in 44 matches. But in his last 2 seasons he did really well getting 28 goals in 65 matches.
 

OlsensHummelBoots

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As I write this it does sound really stupid but Stapleton was at the time a great thinking modern day footballer but very average at being a striker. He scored some corkers though.

Seem to remember a goal against citeh, obviously the one against the scousers and he gets the eternal thanks for the waankfest he caused with the goal against Barcelona.

I'm showing my age here.
 

BigRon1985

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No-one at United had scored more than 20 league goals in a season for a good few years before McClair arrived.
Incredibly it was as far back as 1967!!! United was a graveyard for strikers in the 70/80s.
 

Vanrouge

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As I write this it does sound really stupid but Stapleton was at the time a great thinking modern day footballer but very average at being a striker. He scored some corkers though.

Seem to remember a goal against citeh, obviously the one against the scousers and he gets the eternal thanks for the waankfest he caused with the goal against Barcelona.

I'm showing my age here.
I'm thinking of a goal he scored against City too. At Old Trafford. I think the game finished 2-2, but big Frank scored a screamer. I remember it too because there were two City fans in the Stretford End, and surprisingly they survived the match. :lol: I think most of the Stretty thought it was funny, their sheer audacity.
 

OlsensHummelBoots

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I'm thinking of a goal he scored against City too. At Old Trafford. I think the game finished 2-2, but big Frank scored a screamer. I remember it too because there were two City fans in the Stretford End, and surprisingly they survived the match. :lol: I think most of the Stretty thought it was funny, their sheer audacity.
I'm not a Manc but during the 80s and apart from both sets of hooligan schmooligans willing to belt fuuck out of each other, City fans were basically pitied. City fans though hated United?

I may have this wrong but the real antagonism was with the scousers? I remember the 5-1 and although galling thanking fuuck it wasn't Liverpool.

I'll stand corrected if any locals want to put me right?
 

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McClair was moved into midfield for a while in his second season - which could explain why he didnt score enough. As I recall, Ferguson used Davenport and Hughes up front for 6-7 games until Davenport was sold, and in those games McClair played in midfield.
He did, and they formed a decent pair. After Davenport was sold we went on an awful run; I think Ferguson later admitted selling him was his first mistake at United.

Jordan was a strange one because he was awful in front of goal in his first 1.5 season at United - 9 goals in 44 matches. But in his last 2 seasons he did really well getting 28 goals in 65 matches.
I think he was looking for an improved contract at the end of 80/81 which the board were reluctant to give him; that and the change of manager saw him on his way.

Stapleton seemed the ideal replacement at the time, but while he was ok he never really seemed up for it. He seemed to have worked harder when he was at Arsenal.
 

Josh 76

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McClair was moved into midfield for a while in his second season - which could explain why he didnt score enough. As I recall, Ferguson used Davenport and Hughes up front for 6-7 games until Davenport was sold, and in those games McClair played in midfield.

Jordan was a strange one because he was awful in front of goal in his first 1.5 season at United - 9 goals in 44 matches. But in his last 2 seasons he did really well getting 28 goals in 65 matches.
I still remember Davenport’s late winner at OT against the scousers in 1987. What a beauty!


(14.28)
 

Drizzle

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Looks like most points have been covered.

My perspective: he was a fine target man, good touch, good shot on him, great in the air. But he lacked pace, sharpness and a ruthless poacher's instinct. A good striker but not a great one. Scored some amazing goals for us though so I have good memories of him.
 

Josh 76

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Looks like most points have been covered.

My perspective: he was a fine target man, good touch, good shot on him, great in the air. But he lacked pace, sharpness and a ruthless poacher's instinct. A good striker but not a great one. Scored some amazing goals for us though so I have good memories of him.
Thanks for putting this post up. It was nice having a trip down memory lane with all the old mancs on here! :)
 

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Thanks for putting this post up. It was nice having a trip down memory lane with all the old mancs on here! :)
Yeah, lovely getting some witness experiences while we’re still around! In my understanding of the football back then, and particularily at United under at least Docherty, Sexton and Atkinson, the concept was having fast or skilfull wingers get to the byline and cross, a strong header of the ball (Houston, Jordan, Stapleton) to win the headers or making defenders not clear properly, and winning the second balls. Top scorers in general had fewer goals in the late 70’s and 80’s, I think. My impression was that Stapleton did a good job at the second to highest level, almost as good as Jordan before him (who AC Milan prized away!). United were about the level we are now, competitively.
 

lysglimt

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71 league goals, of which McClair scored 24.

The following season, with Hughes back, we scored only 45 goals and finished 11th...
yes but one of the main reasons for that was that our midfield consisted of players who were so injury-ridden that they missed the majority of the matches. And we had to replace them with a bunch of kids or players who were nowhere near good enough.

Robson played 34 matches that season - but apart from him, Strachan missed roughly half the season through injury, Jesper Olsen played 10 matches in total and Whiteside even less. Beardsmore who quite frankly wasn't good enough played over 20 matches, a 17-year old Lee Sharpe played over 20 matches, and Ralph Milne played over 20 matches. Not even Ferguson himself in hindsight thought that was a good signing.
 

Josh 76

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yes but one of the main reasons for that was that our midfield consisted of players who were so injury-ridden that they missed the majority of the matches. And we had to replace them with a bunch of kids or players who were nowhere near good enough.

Robson played 34 matches that season - but apart from him, Strachan missed roughly half the season through injury, Jesper Olsen played 10 matches in total and Whiteside even less. Beardsmore who quite frankly wasn't good enough played over 20 matches, a 17-year old Lee Sharpe played over 20 matches, and Ralph Milne played over 20 matches. Not even Ferguson himself in hindsight thought that was a good signing.
Talking of Russel Beadsmore! Remember this like yesterday.
 

Bondi77

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I thought Norman Whiteside partnered him for a couple of seasons before Hughes did.
 

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Stapletonnnnnnnn! Two goals in two minutes!!! :drool:

I’ve always had fond memories as he scored in my first game at Old Trafford. A 2-1 win against Leicester in 1985 which was a midweek game after he’d scored the winner at Anfield at the weekend! So instant cult status for me.

He was good in the air but painfully slow so was completely reliant on service from what I recall.
 

Josh 76

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Stapletonnnnnnnn! Two goals in two minutes!!! :drool:

I’ve always had fond memories as he scored in my first game at Old Trafford. A 2-1 win against Leicester in 1985 which was a midweek game after he’d scored the winner at Anfield at the weekend! So instant cult status for me.

He was good in the air but painfully slow so was completely reliant on service from what I recall.

Still gives me goose bumps!
 

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Technically Frank was a great player. I have seen him play and was at OT that night against Barca. His hold up play and passing was good. He later went to Ajax. He never had the pace to become a top striker. His best job for United was probably as a CB against Andy Gray in the FA Cup Final.
 

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I'm not a Manc but during the 80s and apart from both sets of hooligan schmooligans willing to belt fuuck out of each other, City fans were basically pitied. City fans though hated United?

I may have this wrong but the real antagonism was with the scousers? I remember the 5-1 and although galling thanking fuuck it wasn't Liverpool.

I'll stand corrected if any locals want to put me right?
I can only really give my own perspective, but I do agree largely with what you're saying. I had friends who were City fans, and in fact half of my family were City fans, but they weren't matchgoers, while my United family were season ticket holders. I moved back and forth to and from Manchester, so I wasn't in Manchester for all my childhood, but I do remember getting a bus to Old Trafford in the early eighties wearing my United scarf and we'd go through traditional City areas like Moss Side and no one bothered me. I even heard that in the late sixties there were many fans who went to both United and City matches every other weekend.

And definitely our rivalry was most heated with the red Scousers. That could get ugly at times (although often funny too).
 

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yes but one of the main reasons for that was that our midfield consisted of players who were so injury-ridden that they missed the majority of the matches. And we had to replace them with a bunch of kids or players who were nowhere near good enough.

Robson played 34 matches that season - but apart from him, Strachan missed roughly half the season through injury, Jesper Olsen played 10 matches in total and Whiteside even less. Beardsmore who quite frankly wasn't good enough played over 20 matches, a 17-year old Lee Sharpe played over 20 matches, and Ralph Milne played over 20 matches. Not even Ferguson himself in hindsight thought that was a good signing.
Fair enough. Our injury record in the 80s was absolutely diabolical. Going back a bit further, Wilkins was brilliant in his first season, out injured for virtually the whole of his second, and was never quite the same player thereafter.
 

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I remember we were scouting a trio of Irish lads and they all signed for Arsenal. It was at the time when Doc had Machester Utd as he signed a lot of Scottish players, who were probably the strongest "home" side at the time.
The three we missed out on were Brady, O"Leary and Stapleton, although we may have given Frank a trial, if I remember right.
We had Birtles from Forest, and if my memory serves me as soon as he started playing for us he stopped scoring and thats why we went for Frank.
He wasnt prolific and my memory isnt having a stand out moment of him being a superstar.
Now if we had gone for Brady we would have had a player.
 

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I think many supporters at the time were very optimistic about Frank Stapleton joining us as he seemed to be a United style player.

Unfortunately, as others have mentioned, he couldn't score goals regularly at the highest level. Like others before him, Jordan, Greenhoff, Pearson, were all fan favourites but not good enough as someone who needed to score 20+ goals a season.

As he got older and slower, and he wasn't quick to start with, his goals dried up.

It's why you will never see his name in the list of Top 50 United players.

A good but not great player. Like many we bought throughout that period.
 

Josh 76

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Fair enough. Our injury record in the 80s was absolutely diabolical. Going back a bit further, Wilkins was brilliant in his first season, out injured for virtually the whole of his second, and was never quite the same player thereafter.
Interesting point about so many injuries in the 80s. The key factor to that must have been the drinking culture at the time. I know it was normal in those days, but even Fergie said he was shocked how bad it was at Utd when he came.
 

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He was a joy to watch. Strong and very hard-working, not easy to get the ball off when he had it but he was not a Rvp/RvN or Halaand type centre forward of the sort we see today. He held the ball up and brought others ion, then made a run for the penalty area. He had great heading ability and would have scored a lot more if he'd played with the likes of Beckham.

At times he looked a bit lumbering and slow but actually wasn't - although again like so many of that era probably didn't have the athleticism of today's player.

he also gave everything. I remember him being hacked to pieces by Liverpool defenders (and keeper) in a League Cup final. He was so badly injured he could barely move but stayed on because we'd used our (one) substitute. He dropped into the back four. Present day rules would have seen at least three dippers sent off in that game. He was summed up for me when asked about being the first player to score for two different clubs in an FA Cup Final, he said that meant nothing because we hadn't won that second one (we did win the replay)
 

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Interesting point about so many injuries in the 80s. The key factor to that must have been the drinking culture at the time. I know it was normal in those days, but even Fergie said he was shocked how bad it was at Utd when he came.
I had always assumed that it was the constant idleness brought about by the injuries that drove the players to drink, rather than the reverse.
 

David Bartley

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My love for football really started with the Topps footballcards - and for some reason my first hero was Frank Stapleton which made me an Arsenal-fan, but when Atkinson bought Stapleton I became a United-fan. To this day, I even remember where I was when I read in the paper that United bought Stapleton - I was 9 years old.

But since I was 9 years old and United were on tv maybe 3-4 matches a year in the 80s I never really got to watch him play that much - most of what I have seen has been from old videos, you tube-clips etc. But my question to those of you who watched him play regularly (and remember it). His goal-ratio was never amazing - at Arsenal he scored 1 goal in 3 matches, at United it was close to 1 in 4. That is give or take 10 goals a season. Why did he score so few goals ? Didn't he get into a lot of goalscoring opportunities, wasn't he very prolific, didn't the team create a lot of chances ? I mean I know he was a target-player who was good in the air more than a Nistelrooy-type of player, but it still seems strange that his goal return was so poor when he played striker for a club that most of the time ended 3rd or 4th in the league.

Anyone feel like sharing their thoughts ?
I remember standing in the old North Bank in the mid 80s - no, I didn't wear my United scarf - when Frank came back to play against his former team. As soon as he got near our end the Arsenal crowd greeted him with a very loud chorus of "Stapleton, Stapleton, you're just a greedy cnut.' Don't think they had started supporting Utd after he left. Good player, and his transfer to us was very bad business by the Arse.
 

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Technically Frank was a great player. I have seen him play and was at OT that night against Barca. His hold up play and passing was good. He later went to Ajax. He never had the pace to become a top striker. His best job for United was probably as a CB against Andy Gray in the FA Cup Final.
Took the words out of my mouth. He was great after Moran was sent off in that final. Won the cup with us in 83 as well. I always thought highly of Frank. Scored some big goals for us.
 
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