‘Adam meant everything to this football club. The fact that his name is still sung at every game, over 12 years since his passing, tells you everything that you need to know. As a person, Adam was selfless. A number of his acts of generosity only came to light after his death. As a player, Adam always gave 110%. He must have been a nightmare to play against because, not only did he chase down lost causes, but he also had a real eye for goal.’
Exeter City fan Jack Vickery was nine-years-old when Adam Stansfield, Exeter City’s No.9, passed away. Most young football fans ‘lose’ their idol to a bigger club, but Jack lost his idol to something much more final. Jack was relatively old compared to Adam’s three sons: Jay, Taylor and Cody, who were seven, five and two respectively.
Stansfield played for Exeter City between 2006 and 2010. He made 142 appearances for the Grecians, scoring 37 goals. Adam helped Exeter win back-to-back promotions from the Conference to League One. In April 2010, the former Yeovil and Hereford striker was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Despite having surgery and undergoing chemotherapy, Adam Stansfield died on 10th August 2010.
Following Adam’s death and his funeral on 25th August 2010, Adam’s wife, Marie, and the Stansfield family were overwhelmed by the amount of love and support shown by the football community – not only from the supporters of clubs that Adam had played for, but from football fans all over the country. The family became aware that people wanted to fundraise and undertake charitable activities in Adam’s memory so, in September 2010, the Adam Stansfield Foundation was formed.
The foundation aims to give young people the opportunity to develop life skills by using the power of football, whilst also assisting them in trying to achieve their goals. For example, if a grassroots football team in the Devon, Somerset or Hereford area doesn’t have enough funding for balls, cones, bibs etc., the foundation would try to help them in order to promote and increase participation in sport. Through both their website and social media pages, the foundation also strives to highlight and raise awareness of bowel cancer and other issues and illnesses related to this particular type of cancer.
‘At the start of 2019, my brother, Tom, decided that he wanted to do the Great West Run in order to raise money for the foundation. It was nine years since Adam’s passing and, with Adam spending his career wearing the No.9 shirt, we thought it would be fitting to do so. So, in January 2019, we set up a fundraising page. We decided to use the power of social media to contact professional players from a range of sports: football, cricket, golf, rugby, darts and horse racing to name just a few! We asked for signed items that we would be able to auction off. We ran the auctions on social media for a few days. The highest bidder would win the item and donate the amount to the fundraising page. Due to the amazing support that we received (both before and after the run), we’ve been fundraising for the foundation ever since. Our poor Mum has parcelled up and sent over 1000 items. It wouldn’t have been possible without her; she’s been at the heart of this fundraising journey with us.’
At the time of writing, Jack and Tom (and their Mum!) have raised over £175,000 for the Adam Stansfield Foundation. In Jack’s own words, ‘The next stop is £200,000.’ It won’t surprise you to know that Jack and Tom have been named ambassadors for the foundation; a title which they are both deserving of and incredibly proud of in equal measure.
Then, on Friday 2nd September 2022, something magical happened; something that transcended football. Adam’s eldest son, Jay, joined Exeter City on loan. Jay had played for Exeter until the age of 16 when he decided to join Fulham’s Category One academy. Despite making three appearances in the Premier League at the start of the 2022/23 season, the prodigal son had returned. ‘A signing has never left me with a tear in my eye or a lump in my throat, but this was one did! It’s the best signing in my lifetime so far and the best I’ll ever see.’
Twelve years after Adam Stansfield had passed away and Exeter City had retired the No.9 shirt, Jay Stansfield ran out at a packed St James Park, in front of the stand bearing his father’s name, wearing the No.9 shirt. ‘It was a very, very special moment, but also an emotional one – especially for the Stansfield family.’ The story of Jay’s return to Exeter has touched the hearts of football fans up and down the country. It’s the sort of narrative that Hollywood writers dream of, but sport actually delivers. Nevertheless, it’s a move that has the potential to benefit all parties. ‘As much as this is an emotive signing, it also makes a lot of sense. Given how we produce young players, develop them and progress them up the pyramid, Jay will not only be loved here, but he will also return to Fulham as a better player.’
Names such as Dieng, Jay, Brown and Nombe will no doubt adorn the backs of many a replica shirt in the south west of England this season, but something tells us that ‘Stansfield 9’ will be the overwhelming favourite…
Thank you to Jack for his contributions. You can follow him on Twitter – @Jackvickery_. If you would like to find out more about the Adam Stansfield Foundation or possibly even donate, please visit www.adamstansfieldfoundation.com You can also follow the Adam Stansfield Foundation on Twitter – @as9foundation.
(Photo Creds – Charlie David)