Why we must use Jay Stansfield ahead of Rodrigo Muniz

Drew Heatley 25th August 2021
Fulham's Jay Stansfield (left) and Alfie Mawson celebrate the victory at the end of the FA Cup third round match at Craven Cottage, London.

After his debut goal last night, Drew says Silva must look to Stansfield to support Mitro this term.

It’s hard to believe we only signed Jay Stansfield from Exeter City in August 2019. I don’t know about you, but it feels like he’s been banging in goals for the U18s and U23s forever.

During that time, Twitter’s been awash with cries of “chuck Stansfield in” – particularly after he banged more than 20 goals in before the Christmas break in 19/20.  

His debut first-team strike in last night’s Carabao Cup win at Birmingham, alongside his all-round composed performance, leads me to ask: surely his time is now? Jay’s got to be ahead of new arrival Rodrigo Muniz in the pecking order.

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Tough to compare

This isn’t me bashing Muniz before he’s even stepped foot inside Motspur Park. But let’s look at the headline figures a minute. Muniz is 20 years old, Stansfield is still 18; three months shy of his 19th birthday. Fabio Carvalho, a week away from turning 19, has shown that these boys aren’t ones for the future – they can take their chances today.

Stansfield was bagging for fun in the academy system since his arrival, bar a six-month injury last term, despite which he still managed to score eight goals. Muniz’s record is harder to judge.

The Brazilian league system is peculiar in that it’s sliced up into three parts: Serie A, Copa do Brasil and regionalised state championships. Serie A and the Copa run similarly to the Premier League and the FA Cup, for example, and the Copa in particular is fiercely competed for every year. But the outlier is the state championships, these are tournaments that are played between teams from larger cities across Brazil and feature teams from the top flight all the way down to Serie C and D.

The quality in this competition fluctuates wildly as highly-paid professionals take on near-amateurs in the early weeks of the season, hence why State Championships are regularly seen as a distraction for the larger teams as they swot away smaller outfits with ease, until the later stages where the heavyweights collide for the title. That skews Muniz’s already modest goal tally; how many were against teams of quality?

We’ve also got to consider how long it could take Muniz to settle in. This isn’t a move from Newcastle to the capital. Rodrigo’s coming from the other side of the world to play in a league that, let’s face it, he’s not going to have heard too much about. Not to mention this all comes after he’s finished quarantining and getting training sessions under his belt. It’s a long game.

Jay’s acclimatised, and he’s proved he can step up.

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Nurtured – but not born – in SW6

Now, let’s not pretend Jay is ‘one of our own’; many will be aware of the way we snatched the then-16-year-old away from Exeter City, a side he has a deep connection with thanks to his late father, and Grecians legend, Adam Stansfield.

Exeter chairman Julian Tagg lamented the move at the time: “We, like many clubs, feel the Elite Performance Player Plan’s rules – which fix transfer fees between academies – is heavily weighted in favour of sides higher up the football pyramid and ignores clubs like Exeter City, which do a tremendous job in producing talented young footballers.”

However, there’s no doubting he’s flourished under Huw Jennings and the academy team. So there comes a time when we have to start feeling proud of that. Lord knows we’ve had our fair share of youngsters taken from us in recent years.

A nice problem to have

Look, I’m not saying “let’s start Stansfield against Stoke”, or that he needs to be the first name on the team sheet going forwards. I’m saying that we bought Muniz as support for Mitro (who, thank God, has rediscovered his form), but we might well have had that support all along. And, at the very least, Jay should be given the first opportunity to fill that role.

Muniz is here for five years – he’s going nowhere. Competition breeds success, and having this pair duke it out is good for business. And, as a club that’s not had the best track record in converting seemingly unlimited potential into first-team success (as I’ve written before), it’s crucial to show Stansfield that there’s a path to success in SW6. Or we risk watching him fulfil that potential in another club’s colours.