Diminutive striker Gordon Staniforth joined Hull City, his hometown club, as a junior and was quickly identified by both club and country as having talent, especially after he was chosen to play for England Schoolboys in 1973. Gordon was handed a first team debut by manager Terry Neill shortly after his 17th birthday in an end-of-season defeat at home to Swindon and was promptly given his first professional contract. By the time his next first team selection came around in November 1974, Neill had been replaced by John Kaye and Staniforth obliged with the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Fulham. Despite this promise Staniforth was held in the wings by Kaye in favour of more experienced forwards like Alf Wood and John Hawley, and played only once more during 1974/75, a substitute appearance on the last day of the season.
In 1975/76 Kaye again held Staniforth in reserve for most of the season, giving him just four starts in wide positions between December 1975 and February 1976. Come the 1976/77 season it was the same pattern – Staniforth was given one start and four sub appearances in October and November, scoring his second and final goal for City in a dominant 3-1 home win over Plymouth. Now nearing his 20th birthday, Staniforth was perhaps growing increasingly frustrated and in December 1976 he was transferred to York City, initially on a one month loan then permanently for a £7,500 in January 1977.
York City were struggling at the foot of the Third Division but at Bootham Crescent Staniforth quickly established himself as a first team regular, playing in both central and wide attacking positions. In that first partial season he made 28 consecutive starts and scored 3 goals. Relegated to the Fourth Division, York again struggled in the bottom four and had to apply for re-election in May 1978, but Staniforth started all 46 league games and 4 cup ties, scoring 13 goals including six from the penalty spot. In 1978/79 York’s form improved and a mid-table finish was fuelled by Staniforth’s 15 league goals, plus four more in a FA Cup run that included a Second Round brace against local non-league rivals Scarborough and ended in a Fourth Round defeat against First Division high flyers Nottingham Forest. Staniforth began 1979/80 slowly then exploded with a hattrick in a 5-2 win over league newcomers Wigan Athletic. He amassed 38 goals in 139 league appearances during his time with the Minstermen.
This form prompted Third Division high flyers Carlisle United to sign Staniforth in October 1979 for a substantial £120,000 fee – at that time the Cumbrians’ record fee paid. Paired with the likes of Peter Beardsley and future Tiger Steve Hoolickin, Gordon began well and scored four goals before Christmas. But after a February 3-2 win over former club Hull City (he had already played in an earlier FA Cup tie against the Tigers that Carlisle won in a replay) Staniforth dropped out of the first team and made only four more appearances in the rest of the season. He started 1980/81 well and missed only four games all season, scoring an April hattrick against Burnley. This form continued into 1981/82 as the goals of Staniforth and Beardsley propelled Carlisle to promotion to Division Two – Staniforth contributed 11 league goals including a further hattrick against Plymouth. Elevated to the Second Division, Carlisle invested in forwards and Staniforth was used in a support role during the 1982/83 season.
Plymouth evidently remembered the hattrick Staniforth scored against them the previous season and in March 1983 signed Gordon in a player swap deal. Playing alongside former Tigers team-mate Gordon Nisbet, Staniforth quickly re-established his Third Division credentials, bagging 11 league goals in 1983/84 and voted the club’s Player of the Season. He also contributed prominently, alongside his striker partner Tommy Tynan, to the Pilgrims unlikely ten-match march to the FA Cup Semi Final, where they were defeated narrowly at Villa Park by Graham Taylor’s Watford. He scored another 11 in all competitions in 1984/85 but moved on to Newport County that summer. Gordon made 101 appearances for Newport across two seasons and scored 13 goals, but his second season, 1986/87, saw Newport finish bottom of the Third Division and relegated to the fourth tier. Staniforth returned to York City for 1987/88 but made only 23 appearances as the Minstermen finished 23rd in the Third Division – two relegations in a row were enough for Gordon and he briefly dropped into the non-league scene with North Ferriby United before hanging up his boots. Despite the halting start to his career at Hull City, in 14 seasons as a professional Staniforth ended up scoring 115 senior goals in 540 appearances. Good innings.
With his playing days over Staniforth returned to York and spent several years working as the club’s Football in the Community Officer, then took up a regional coaching role for the Professional Footballers’ Association. He was briefly a youth coach at Leeds United in 1987/88, then worked at York College’s football development centre. Between 2013 and 2014 he was first team manager of Doncaster Belles women’s football team, resigning in October 2014 in protest against cuts to the team’s playing budget.
Gordon’s daughter Lucy Staniforth was a highly successful professional footballer who played for several WSL clubs and won a dozen England caps. Gordon’s son Tom was also a professional footballer at Sheffield Wednesday who tragically died at the age of 20 in 2001 after taking ecstasy – as a result both Gordon and Lucy were prominent anti-drug campaigners.
Date/Place of Birth: 23 March 1957, Hull
Hull City First Game: 15 April 1974, Swindon Town H (Division Two), 17 years, 23 days old
Hull City Final Game: 27 November 1976, Bristol Rovers A (Division Two), 19 years, 249 days old
Hull City (1973-1976), York City (1976, loan), York City (1977-1979), Carlisle United (1979-1983), Plymouth Argyle (1983-1985), Newport County (1985-1987), York City (1987-1988), North Ferriby United (1988-1989)
Hull City Record
Career: 12 apps, 2 goalsGordon Staniforth