George Rossiter looks into Jay Stansfield’s potential future as a Fulham player.
Jay Stansfield has a brilliant reputation Fulham Football Club. His goalscoring record at youth level was impeccable from a very young age. At just 16 years of age, the forward had scored 22 goals in 14 games in his first season in the U18 Premier League, earning him recognition in the first team set up. Scott Parker handed him a debut in the FA Cup in January 2020, before a league debut followed later that month away at Charlton Athletic. Despite a long lay off with injury, Stansfield returned to first team consideration in August 2021, scoring his first senior goal in a league cup victory over Birmingham. Fulham knew the talent they had on their hands, so planning his development carefully was important.
It’s been a fairytale season for Jay Stansfield. The young forward played a part in Fulham’s Premier League campaign for the first couple of games with an injury crisis on the wing. While Stanno didn’t look out of his depth at all and nearly scored an early opener against Brentford, returning players and new signings meant his minutes would be massively limited had he stayed and fought for his place. Looking ahead to a first full season in senior football, the young forward had loan offers from the Championship, but instead opted for a year in League One. When the opportunity to return to Exeter City came up, it was a match made in heaven.
Not only was this the club Jay Stansfield had signed from In 2019, it was the club at which Jay’s father Adam Stansfield had earned hero status. It was also the club that Adam was playing for when he tragically passed away on 10 August 2010. Adam had been diagnosed with a form of colorectal cancer earlier that year. Since his death, the Adam Stansfield Foundation has been set up, offering children, including those with disabilities, more opportunities to play more sport, as well as raising awareness of bowel cancer. Exeter also named a stand after Stansfield in 2018 as a sign of respect to the man who scored 37 times in 142 appearances for the club.
Jay’s return to St James Park was bound to be emotional, and it was. But it was also hugely successful. For a 20 year old playing his first season in senior football, 16 goal contributions (nine goals, seven assists) in 36 league games is very impressive. Especially considering the mid-season change of manager which led to Stansfield’s position being changed on a fairly frequent basis. Add to that an assist in the FA Cup and three Premier League appearances at the start of the season as previously mentioned, this has been a hugely successful season for Stansfield. His hat-trick on the final day against Morecambe was a fairytale ending to the loan.
Inevitably now the question is, how does this translate into a future at Fulham. Could he play a part in the squad as early as the 2023/24 season? Stanno is homegrown, versatile, on a high after the season just gone and has already got a hint of Premier League experience to boot too. Admittedly, League One to the Premier League is a mammoth jump, but let’s consider his potential to be a Premier League player.
Most of the time when you’re assessing a youth prospect and their ability to make the step from youth football into senior football, you look at their youth career. Carvalho, Sessegnon, Harris etc never really had the loan experience, they made the transition straight from the academy to the first team. Stansfield was on the same path. However, a long-term injury halted that process to an extent. Not to mention that his position has always been occupied by Aleksandar Mitrovic, and that’s quite the man to try and dismantle from the side.
But Stansfield is no longer just an extraordinary goalscoring striker. This loan at Exeter has proven his ability to play across the frontline. A combination of Exeter’s mid-season managerial change from Matt Taylor to Gary Caldwell has meant that Stansfield has played a mixture of positions, including on both wings and as a second striker. As well as this, his link-up up front with the likes of Jevani Brown and Sam Nombe has worked wonders for Exeter, allowing Stansfield to seamlessly exchange positions in a fluid frontline as well as show the creative side of his game as well as just scoring goals.
These traits sound similar right? They should do. While I don’t think we’ll see Stansfield playing as an occasional wing back or box-to-box midfielder anytime soon, there are parallels to Bobby De Cordova-Reid in the way Stansfield is able to play across the frontline and interchange with his fellow forwards. Bobby has proven the need for that profile of player in a Premier League squad and Stansfield could be the long term successor for that role. We got a brief idea of those capabilities, looking especially dangerous out wide against Brentford in August.
Above all else though, Stansfield is best known at Fulham for the player he was blossoming into. No academy striker at this club has had the goalscoring reputation Stansfield did for a long time. What this season has bought is a debate as to the profiles of striker Fulham want in their squad. Mitrovic is the main man, Vinicius is good with his feet, James runs the channels non stop and Muniz is yet to come back. Stansfield adds another profile of forward to that group that Marco Silva may be encouraged by going into a new season.
It’s likely Stansfield will get opportunities to show the manager and his teammates his capabilities in pre-season. This could be a vital summer for the young forward, no question. From an outrageous goalscoring record at U18 level to now coming back from injury and into a brilliant loan spell, Stansfield has already had a rollercoaster ride of a young career. There is surely a place for him in Fulham’s squad long term, but whether he plays a roll short term is yet to be seen. For me, there’s every reason to believe Stansfield can be our wonderful academy’s next big success as early as next season, and what a story it would be if he was.
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