Steve Tupling, who had started at Middlesbrough and had played over a hundred league games for Darlington, was a Cardiff City player when he played nine games on loan with Exeter City in the late 1980s. Also on loan with Torquay United during the same season, he went to play for Hartlepool before a brief return to Darlington.Although Tupling commenced his career with Middlesbrough as an apprentice and a full professional in July 1982, he never made a league appearance for the club. He joined Carlisle United in July 1984, but only had one league outing for the Brunton Park club and three months later was back in the North East with Darlington where his career took off making a total of 111 league appearances and scoring 8 goals. Tupling subsequently signed for Newport County in August 1987 where he played 33 league games before switching to Cardiff City in August 1988.
Playing infrequently for the Bluebirds, and having already had a loan spell with Torquay United September 1988, he joined Exeter City on loan in January 1989 and made his debut in a 3-0 home win over Doncaster Rovers. His only goal for the Grecians came in a 5-1 win against Rochdale.
Leaving Cardiff he returned to the North East with Hartlepool United in December 1989 and was to be part of the team that won promotion to the Third Division the following season. He played 89 league games for the club before a brief second spell with Darlington ahead of playing for Gateshead and becoming a PE teacher in Whitley Bay.