Barnet FC were extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of fan of the club Gareth Needham, affectionately known as Donny Gaz to everybody associated with the Bees, on Tuesday evening.
Gareth first fell in love with the club at the age of fifteen after watching a Barnet game on television and being entertained by a post-match interview from Barry Fry, the manager of the Bees at the time.
He soon began attending Barnet games both home and away despite having to travel from his hometown of Bessacarr near Doncaster, leading to his famous nickname of ‘Donny’ Gaz.
Indeed, Gaz did not miss a Bees game for an incredible five years before suffering a terrible accident whilst on his way back from watching Barnet take on Wycombe in December 2006, when he was left in a coma and lost a leg after being hit by a train.
After spending six weeks in a coma and undergoing numerous operations, Gaz made his long-awaited return to Underhill just four months after the accident to witness Barnet take on Darlington.
That day, having recently had his prosthetic leg fitted, he proudly walked to the centre circle before addressing supporters over the tannoy to thank them all for the overwhelming support that he had received throughout his recovery, announcing:
“I feel like I have died and gone to heaven.”
Gaz watched the game from the Family Stand surrounded by friends and family as well as numerous banners made by well-wishers. Barnet went on to win the game 2-1 to secure survival, but it was the return of Donny Gaz that dominated the headlines with then-manager Paul Fairclough describing him as a “true warrior.”
Gaz continued to attend games whenever possible and has stayed close friends with numerous people at the club, including the Chairman, former players and managers and of course countless supporters.
His final visit to watch the Bees play was in September this year, when a last-minute free-kick from Luisma Villa gave Barnet a dramatic late win over Alfreton Town.
Reacting to the sad news, Barnet FC Chairman Tony Kleanthous said:
“I feel devastated by this very tragic news. I remember Gareth from when we used to be at Underhill and he would come up by my seat and say hello. He would always have encouraging words about the game ahead, or, if we were doing badly, about how we would do better next time. He always had a positive outlook and a smile on his face, which never changed despite his horrific accident.
“I last saw him just a few weeks ago as I was rushing through the bar and he pulled me aside to say hello. I wish I had spent a bit more time with him, but who was to know that it would be the last time that I saw him.
“My heart goes out to his family and everybody at the club has a deepest sympathy and will remember the true legend in our family that was Donny Gaz.”
Everybody at Barnet FC would like to offer our sincerest condolences to his mother Ann-Marie, his father Graham and twin brother Mark, as well as everybody that knew him and was touched by his extraordinary life.
He will be sadly missed by everybody at the club.
We will be running a tribute to Donny Gaz in our next programme on November 29th for our game at home to Macclesfield. If you have any particular memories or stories about time spent in the company of Donny Gaz that you would like to share with us, then please e-mail Tom Clee at email@example.com.