This week has been a reflective one for fans of Exeter City, Hereford, Yeovil and Elmore as we remembered on Wednesday the passing of striker Adam Stansfield one year ago.
I wasn’t at the Ipswich League Cup game when most Exeter City fans found out that Stansfield had lost his fight with bowel cancer. I cannot imagine how the collective group of Exeter fans felt at that time but when I received a text informing me of the terrible news the feeling was one of shock.
Stansfield was just thirty one and anyone who has seen him play will tell you that his physical fitness was second to none. He became a fans favourite for covering every blade of grass and running his heart out all match for the cause. The amount of running he did in a game was phenomenal.
About two weeks before his untimely death someone posted on Facebook that his condition was terminal and the response was a mixture of deep anger and utter disbelief. A lot of fans were understandably angry that someone would publicly post what was at the time a vicious rumour, none of us thought it would be proved right so soon.
On Wednesday fans of his former clubs got together on Twitter to pay tribute by attempting to trend the hashtag #WeWillNeverForgetStanno. Unfortunately it didn’t trend but the amount of messages posted about him that day really showed the shock at which his death caused around the football community with tweets from fans, his former colleagues and current and former top flight footballers. The tweet that got me the most was the one with a YouTube link to BBC footage of Stansfield’s funeral. I had taken the decision not to attend the funeral as I didn’t feel I had earned the right to be there and I felt I didn’t want to face the emotion of the day in what had been a fairly difficult year on a personal level. I watched the footage for the first time and it really brought me to my knees to see the outpouring of public emotion from the Exeter City and football community.
Thankfully Adam Stansfield’s legacy is still alive today in the form of the Adam Stansfield Foundation who raise money to give aspiring young footballers in the South West regardless of club allegiance the opportunities to play at a young age that benefitted Stansfield so much.
The club held a collection for a cancer charity at the understandably emotional game between Exeter and Yeovil where Stansfield had made his name. Fans once again displayed the huge Stansfield 9 shirt over the Big Bank and chanted about him as I believe Exeter fans will always do.
Stansfield always had time for the fans and was often to be found signing autographs or just chatting to the fans after games. I met him after the victory parade for Exeter’s promotion to League Two – he was humble and talkative and more than happy to have his photo taken with me, he even tried to jump up to reach my height.
Stansfield will never be forgotten by those who were lucky enough to see him play. The club retired the number 9 shirt for ten years as a mark of respect. The next player to wear that shirt will have boots that are literally impossible to fill.
More details about the Adam Stansfield Foundation are available at adamstansfieldfoundation.com where you can show your support by buying wristbands or badges.
Written by Ian Bond, We Are Going Up’s Exeter blogger