Jay Stansfield: The loanee who followed in the footsteps of his late father

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Jay Stansfield: The loanee who followed in the footsteps of his late father

Exeter fans' tribute to Adam Stansfield
Exeter fans' tribute to Adam StansfieldProfimedia
Jay Stansfield (20) returned to Exeter City on loan from Fulham for the 2022/23 season, ending his spell with a bang after scoring a hat-trick in the season's final game.

Stansfield's loan move to Exeter at the start of the season was more than just a footballing opportunity or somewhere to play. It was a chance for him to return to his hometown and play for the club where his father, Adam, had played and made his name.

Adam Stansfield was a popular figure at Exeter - so much so the club retired his number 9 shirt 13 years ago. He tragically died of cancer in 2010 at the age of just 31.

Stansfield was not just any striker. He had been at Exeter for four seasons and it was thanks to him, the A-team managed to claw their way up from fifth to third in the league. In the 2008/09 season, when they celebrated promotion to League One, Adam was the club's top scorer.

He was able to continue scoring goals in the third tier of English football, but when he made a 62nd-minute substitution appearance at Wycombe on March 20th, 2010, no one knew it would mark his last moment on a football pitch.

Soon it was discovered that he was suffering from bowel cancer. After an aggressive battle with the disease, in less than five months on August 10th, he died. He played 160 games for Exeter and scored 39 goals.

"You know, it means a lot to me. The pressure will be completely different when I'm wearing a nine. But I think it's the right thing to do," recounted his son Jay when he arrived at Exeter last September.

Returning to where he grew up

As a young boy, he watched his dad's games: "When I started here in the academy, I dreamed of playing in the number nine jersey. Now I get to be here and I actually got that jersey. I hope my dad would be proud of me."

Jay Stansfield certainly didn't disappoint. He scored nine goals in 36 games, set up seven more for his teammates and was the team's third most productive player.

Exeter also played one of the best seasons in its history thanks to him. The farewell hat-trick was just a poignant end to Jay's powerful story.

He scored all three goals in the second half under the stand that bears his father's name, and it was under it that he always ran to celebrate with the fans.

Exeter beat Morecambe 3-2 to condemn their opponents to relegation. Coach Gary Caldwell pulled the hero of the match off the field in the 74th minute, mainly to enjoy the moment and applause of the crowd.

Was it really the last game?

"It was an amazing day. Not just for me, but for all the fans," Stansfield said. "We haven't had good results lately, so to win the last game was the best thing to do for our fans.

"I've been waiting for a goal for a while, but the people around me and the fans kept me going. I'm very happy, it's the first hat-trick of my career."

It is not yet clear where Stansfield's future lies. He is a Fulham player, and it is up to the club's management to decide whether he will return to Craven Cottage or go out on loan again next season. However, one thing is for sure: Stansfield will always have a special place in his heart for Exeter City.

But Exeter believe this was not Jay's last game in a red and white jersey: "I hope it wasn't the last time he played for us. He has really grown a lot as a player and a person. We were delighted to welcome him back to the club," hoped manager Caldwell.

Even the player himself knows the door will likely always be open. For two and a half hours after the last game, he was still signing autographs for fans young and old.

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