FRANK Munro, the former Scotland defender whose death at the age of 63 was announced yesterday, held the distinction of being the last player Jock Stein signed as Celtic manager.
But his brief and unsuccessful spell with the Parkhead club was simply a footnote to an otherwise outstanding career which had its highest points during almost ten years at Wolverhampton Wanderers where he is still regarded as one of the greatest and most popular players to pull on the old gold shirt. Munro was a key figure in the Wolves side which reached the Uefa Cup final in 1972 and won the League Cup two years later. He also captained the squad which won the old Second Division title in 1977.
Capped nine times for Scotland, Munro had been in poor health since suffering a stroke back in 1994. He still lived in the Wolverhampton area and his passing late on Monday night following a bout of pneumonia has been greeted with huge sadness at the Molineux club.
The Wolves official website was inundated with tributes to Munro from supporters. Former Wolves and England striker John Richards, who scored the winning goal in the 1974 League Cup final against Manchester City, had remained in touch with Munro. "We had all resigned ourselves to hearing this news sooner or later," said Richards, "but it is still very upsetting to know we have lost a good friend and a player who supporters of a certain age will remember with a lot of affection."
Born in Broughty Ferry, Munro started his career as a youth player at Chelsea before signing for Dundee United in 1963. A striker in his early years, he was popular at Tannadice before he was recruited by Aberdeen, then managed by Eddie Turnbull, in October 1966.
Munro scored Aberdeen's first-ever European goal on his way to a hat-trick in the 10-1 thrashing of KR Reykjavik in a Cup Winners' Cup tie at Pittodrie in 1967. He netted 14 times in 59 appearances for the Dons before earning a 55,000 move to Wolves in January 1968. Ronnie Allen, the Wolves boss, had been alerted to Munro when he scored a hat-trick for Aberdeen against Wolves in a close-season match in Washington the previous summer.
He established himself as a centre-half at Wolves where his 371 first team appearances sees him sit at 20th place in the club's all-time list. Munro earned his first honour as a Wolves player when they defeated Hearts 3-2 on aggregate in the 1971 Texaco Cup final. The following season, he scored in both legs of the Uefa Cup semi-final against Ferencvaros but had to settle for a runners-up medal when Wolves lost 3-2 on aggregate to Tottenham in the all-English final.
Munro's performances for Wolves led to him winning his first Scotland cap as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat to Northern Ireland at Hampden in 1971, the first of four appearances for his country that year. He had to wait until 1975, the year after he helped Wolves lift the League Cup at Wembley, to play for Scotland again. He made five more appearances that year, including the 5-1 defeat by England at Wembley, with his final outing in a 1-1 European Championship qualifying draw against Romania in Bucharest.In October 1977, five months after leading Wolves to the Second Division title, Munro made a surprise loan move to Celtic. Jock Stein, in what would prove his last season as manager of the club, had been a long-time admirer of Munro and saw him as an ideal replacement for the injured Pat Stanton.
Stein named him captain for his debut but Munro scored an own goal in a 2-1 home defeat to a St Mirren side managed by Alex Ferguson. Nevertheless he subsequently impressed Stein enough to make the move permanent in December 1977, the 25,000 fee paid to Wolves going down as the legendary manager's final purchase in the job. Munro helped Celtic reach the League Cup Final, where they lost 2-1 after extra time to Rangers, but it was an abject season for the Parkhead club who finished fifth in the Premier Division while their great rivals claimed the domestic treble.
After just 21 appearances for Celtic, Munro was released in April 1978. He moved to Australia to play for South Melbourne club Hellas and, apart from a brief spell as player-coach at Albion Rovers, remained down under until settling back in Wolverhampton in the early 1990s.