Stephen Staunton (born 19 January 1969 in Drogheda, Republic of Ireland) was a professional footballer who enjoyed a distinguished career with Liverpool and Aston Villa, he also became the Republic of Ireland's most capped player. He is currently the manager of Republic of Ireland.
Staunton was an accomplished all-round sportsman. As well as playing football for his home club of Dundalk, he also represented County Louth in Gaelic U21 Football.
Staunton was spotted by Liverpool playing in Ireland for his home club of Dundalk as a 17 year old and was signed on the 2 September 1986 by manager Kenny Dalglish for the bargain price of £20,000.
He spent the first 2 seasons in the reserves learning 'The Liverpool Way' and even went on loan to Bradford City for 8 games during the 1987/88 season. He eventually made his debut on the 17 September 1988 in the 1-1 league draw with Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield, his performance was so impressive that he stayed in the side for the rest of the season, despite him being vastly inexperienced compared to the players around him, who were defending a League championship title won with ease and authority the year before. Following on from his impressive debut he scored his first 3 days later on the 20th; however, his 80th minute strike wasn't enough to prevent Arsenal winning the Centenary Trophy Semi-Final 2-1.
An injury to captain Alan Hansen had meant that regular left back Gary Ablett had to be shifted across to the centre of defence. Staunton was therefore given his chance and proved an impressive and consistent performer in a team of superstars, playing his part as Liverpool challenged for the title again.
He comforted bereaved families and attended many of the funerals after the Hillsborough disaster on the 15 April 1989 and put in an outstanding performance when the fateful FA Cup semi-final was rescheduled a month later, with Liverpool beating an under-par Nottingham Forest 3-1.
Staunton played in the FA Cup final at Wembley - he was substituted at the start of the extra-time period - as Liverpool defeated Merseyside rivals Everton 3-2. However, the season ended in huge disappointment when Liverpool lost the League title in a decider against Arsenal at Anfield. The Gunners needed to win by 2 clear goals and were 1 up with just seconds remaining, with virtually the last kick of the season Michael Thomas broke through the centre of the Reds defence to score thus stopping Liverpool gaining a second league and FA cup double.
The following year, Staunton was a frequent presence again as Liverpool reclaimed the League title but only played one more season with Liverpool before being sold, to a lot of people's surprise and disappointment, to Aston Villa on the 7 August 1991 [[for 1.1 million. New manager Graeme Souness was accused of misjudging the player's abilities, though the ruling for European ties possibly had a bearing, with Staunton being classed as a foreigner, of which no team was allowed to field more than four. (This was before the Bosman ruling, which among other things abolished quotas for EU citizens on teams in member countries.)
Staunton made a good impression on the Villa fans by marking his debut on the 17 August with a goal in the 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Staunton settled into life at Villa Park and won a Coca-Cola League Cup winners medal in 1994 when he helped Villa upset the odds by beating hot favourites Manchester United 3-1, the winning of his League Cup medal completed the domestic medal set. Over the next four years, he won another Coca-Cola League Cup medal, this time as a non playing sub in the 3-0 victory over Leeds United.
Return to Anfield
Then, with his contract set to expire at Villa, he gained a surprise move back to Liverpool on the 3 July 1998 when joint managers Roy Evans and Gérard Houllier signed him on a Bosman.
His second spell on Merseyside lasted two years before he was told he could leave on a free transfer. After a brief loan spell at Crystal Palace, where he made 6 league appearances, he was recalled to Anfield to appear in his 148th and last game for the Reds, it came on the 23 November 2000 in the 2-2 draw with Greek side Olympiacos in the UEFA Cup.
Villa Park Again
On the 7 December 2000 he did another about-turn and returned to Aston Villa on a free transfer. He played in 14 of the remaining league fixture for the Midlands club and then featured regularly or a further 2 seasons bringing the total of Villa appearances to 350 in which he scored 16 times. But in his second spell with Villa he only managed to score one goal in an Intertoto Cup match against FC Zurich.
Staunton continued to play club football, plying his trade with Coventry City moving there on the 15 August 2003 on a free transfer. He made his debut on the 16 August '03 in the 0-0 league draw with Walsall at Highfield Road, he remained with the Sky Blues until the summer of 2005 clocking up 75 appearances. He was an extremely popular figure at Coventry City. His large stint with local rivals Aston Villa surprisingly did not effect the Coventry faithful's opinion of the Irishman.
Staunton decided not to renew his contract once it had expired, and instead joined Black Country club Walsall on 2 August, 2005. He played just 10 times for the Bescot club and also held the post of assistant coach until the 16 January 2006 when he was plucked from a footballing backwater to be appointed manager of the Republic of Ireland senior international side. Fittingly, he was captain of the Walsall side that defeated Blackpool 2-0 on New Years Eve 2005, in what was his final game as a professional footballer.
Staunton made his debut for the Republic of Ireland in the 4-0 friendly win over Tunisia.
Staunton went to Italy with Jack Charlton's squad as the Republic of Ireland competed in their first ever FIFA World Cup finals. Staunton, the youngest member of the squad, played in every match at left back (though by now at club level he had also proved his usefulness as a central defender or midfield player) as the Republic of Ireland progressed to the quarter finals, when they were beaten by the host nation.
He also represented the Republic of Ireland at FIFA World Cup 1994 in the U.S.. Again, he played in each game as the Republic of Ireland succumbed in the second round to the Netherlands.
The Republic of Ireland failed to qualify for both Euro 96 in England and the 1998 World Cup in France, though Staunton was still selected regularly for the team.
The Republic of Ireland qualified for the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea. Coach Mick McCarthy, who had been Staunton's captain at the country's first World Cup 12 years earlier, selected him for the squad and following the departure of Roy Keane from the squad, due to a bust up with McCarthy, Staunton was appointed captain for the tournament.
Again, Staunton played in every Republic of Ireland game of the tournament, with the 1-1 group match draw against Germany on 5 June proving to be a very special occasion as it was his 100th appearance for his country. Together with Gary Breen, he formed an impressive central defensive partnership in front of Shay Given.
Ireland's competition ended once more in the second round when they lost agonisingly to Spain in a penalty shoot-out after the game had finished 1-1. Staunton announced his retirement from international football immediately afterwards after setting a national record of 102 appearances. He is the only player to have played in every single one of Ireland's 13 World Cup finals games.
Never a prolific goalscorer from either defence or midfield, Staunton nevertheless had a penchant for scoring spectacular long-range goals with his much-feared left foot, particularly from set pieces. On two occasions he scored directly from corner-kicks. The first of which came in a 2-0 victory over Portugal on June 7th 1992, during a US Cup game in Boston and the second came in a 3-0 defeat of Northern Ireland on March 31, 1993 during a World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
Career as Irish Manager
Staunton was released from his player/assistant manager role for Walsall on 12 January 2006, and was officially named as the replacement for Brian Kerr as Republic of Ireland manager the following day. In an interview that would be lampooned by the Irish public, Staunton proclaimed himself "the gaffer", a nickname which has now stuck.
He appointed Aston Villa's reserve team coach and former teammate Kevin McDonald as his coach, and engaged an aging Bobby Robson, shortly to begin his fifth battle with cancer, in the somewhat nebulous role of "International Consutlant". Staunton is quoted to have said "I know that the calibre of the team I have will bring a huge range of experience and talent to the challenges that lie ahead" on his appointment.
His international management career enjoyed a dream start, something Staunton called 'a bit of a fairytale', when he led the Republic of Ireland to an impressive 3-0 victory over Sweden on Wednesday 1 March 2006 with Damien Duff, Robbie Keane (captaining the Republic of Ireland for the first time) and Liam Miller getting onto the score sheet. This was followed by two defeats in friendlies, the first a dour and disappointing 1-0 defeat to Chile in his second match in charge on 23 May 2006 and then a demoralising 4-0 thrashing by Holland at Lansdowne Road, Ireland's worst home reverse in 40 years.
Prior to the Holland game, Staunton was confronted and threatened by a man outside the team hotel on Monday 14 August with a gun that turned out to be an imitation Uzi machine gun. The 31-year-old assailant was arrested at a nearby beach and released by...[Read more]