Adam Stansfield joined Exeter City from Hereford United in June 2006. In four seasons with the club he appeared in over 150 first-team matches and was involved in two promotion campaigns. Adam was diagnosed with cancer in April 2010 and died four months later aged thirty-one. Adam’s son Jay, who was aged seven at the time of his father’s death, became a professional footballer himself and enjoyed a successful season on loan with Exeter City during 2022/23.
Adam Stansfield was inducted into the Exeter City Hall of Fame in 2017.
Born in Plymouth, Adam moved with his family to the Midlands before settling in Tiverton where he played for Twyford Spartans and Tiverton Town’s youth team as a defender. Moving into adult football with Cullompton Rangers and Elmore, Adam became a striker and soon attracted the attention of bigger clubs. Exeter City’s initial interest dates back to September 1998 when the Express and Echo reported that following a reserve team appearance:
"Elmore hopeful Adam Stansfield will get another opportunity to impress Exeter City boss Peter Fox. The pacy striker made his second trial appearance for the Grecians yesterday - as a substitute in City Reserves' victory over Plymouth. And Exeter will continue to monitor the progress of 19 year-old Stansfield. 'Adam's certainly got something about him," said Fox. "I like his attitude, he's very enthusiastic. It will do him good to play in matches like this and he again showed signs that he has got some talent.'"
Adam’s performance for Elmore against Torquay United in the Devon St Luke’s Bowl led to a trial at Plainmoor and there was also reported interest from Wolves before Adam received his big break when Gary Johnson signed him for Yeovil Town in November 2001. Quickly making his Conference debut, Adam was an immediate success at Huish Park and was a goal scorer when Yeovil beat Stevenage to win the FA Trophy in May 2002.
Then, after representing England at semi-professional level during the 2002 summer tournament, Adam suffered a broken leg at the start of 2002/03 and was unable to play a part in Yeovil’s promotion to the Football League. He regained fitness ahead of 2003/04 ready to make his Football League debut shortly before his 25th birthday only to leave the club in May 2004 and return to the Conference with Hereford United. In two seasons at Edgar Street Adam was to net twenty-odd times in his first season and help his club win promotion to the Football League in his second campaign.
Leaving Hereford weeks after appearing in a starting role in the club’s play-off final win, Adam agreed a deal with Exeter City eight years after he had originally attracted the club’s interest as a nineteen-year-old turning out for Elmore. Appearing initially against York City on 12 August 2006, Adam scored his opening goal for the club four days later against Forest Green Rovers. He then went on to make 41 league appearances (scoring ten times) during his debut season ending in City’s play-off final defeat against Morecambe.
Retaining his place in 2007/08 Adam was to make 46 league and cup appearances - including all three play-off games against Torquay United and Cambridge United - and contribute eleven goals as City returned to the Football League in May 2008. Now, playing in League Two for the first time since leaving Yeovil, Adam was to feature regularly and score ten times in 2008/09 as City won a second successive promotion.
Weeks short of his 31st birthday Adam now faced the new prospect of playing in English football’s third-tier. Not appearing until the game at Leyton Orient on 12 September - two days after his birthday - Adam scored twice against Tranmere Rovers the following week and enjoyed his usual good run in the first-team adding another six goals up until the end of January 2010.
Missing most of February’s football, Adam appeared four times in March including the game against Wycombe Wanderers on 20 March 2010 when he was substituted in the 62nd minute. Shortly afterwards Adam was admitted to hospital for tests and, on 8 April 2010, it was announced he was suffering from bowel cancel.
Adam Stansfield died on 10 August 2010 aged thirty-one on the day that he may have otherwise have been playing for Exeter City in a League Cup tie against Ipswich Town. No player wore the number nine shirt for the club in that game because Adam was still registered to wear it. Nor, in Adam’s memory, was the number used again until 2020/2021.
Adam’s funeral was held at Exeter Cathedral on 25 August 2010 and spectator stands at both Elmore and Exeter City have since been named after him. His family established the Adam Stansfield Foundation in his memory and his son Jay soon emerged as a young footballer of great promise. A member of City’s academy, who was to move to Fulham as a sixteen-year-old, Jay returned to St James Park - fittingly wearing the number 9 shirt - on loan for the 2022/23 season.
“Sing a song for Stanno
We will never let you go
You'll always be
At City with me”
(SJP & The Big Bank: 2010)
League 148 (play-offs 6); Cups 10 (158)
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