The parents of a devoted football fan who has died eight years after he was hit by a train have paid tribute to their ‘amazing’ son.
Gareth Needham, known to many for his love of football and Barnet FC and described as ‘always smiling’, died suddenly aged 32 at his Doncaster home.
A fan from the age of 15, Gareth barely missed a game at the London-based club until he was seriously injured after being hit by train just outside Doncaster station as he was travelling back from watching his team play in December 2006.
Gareth, known by many Barnet fans as ‘Donny Gaz’, lost his right leg and was in a coma for six weeks. He could remember nothing about how the accident happened.
But despite making an incredible recovery he died at his home in Bessacarr. The cause of his death is not yet known.
Dad Graham Needham said his son’s death had come as a ‘massive shock’.
The former McAuley Catholic High School pupil had continued living at home with his parents after the accident.
“He was the best son you could ever ask for,” said Graham. “He was just a fantastic lad.”
After the accident he didn’t let anything get him down. He had a fantastic sense of humour and used to say that it’s just as well he lost his right leg because he was left-footed at football!
“He always saw the positives in everything and everyone. Even when Barnet would lose he would say, well ‘at least they defended well’.
“He was always smiling, and that’s one of things I’ll always remember about him. ”
Gareth used a prosthetic leg after the accident which meant he was not able to travel to Barnet for every game but he still remained an avid fan.
More than 300 people attended his funeral at Rose Hill crematorium, including scores of Barnet fans, some of whom travelled more than 150 miles.
Barnet FC’s official flag was sent down to be placed on Gareth’s coffin for the funeral and the club also dedicated six pages to him in their match programme and scheduled 30 seconds of clapping in the 32nd minute (to represent his age) of their game in his memory.
Graham said he and wife Ann-Marie have been overwhelmed by the response of people in Doncaster, Barnet and beyond to their beloved son’s death.
“It’s incredible to know he touched so many people’s lives,” said Graham.
“For Barnet to have dedicated that many pages to an ordinary fan like him is unbelievable. But everyone down there knew him – from the club chairman to the fans.”
Prior to his accident, Gareth had trials with major clubs including Wimbledon, Bradford and Chesterfield and also trained three children’s football teams.
Mum Ann-Marie said Balby Rovers are even hoping to change their name in his memory
She told The Star: “He loved Barnet and everything about football.
“Gaz always said to us ‘If I can put a smile on peoples’ faces that’s my job done’ – that’s the kind of person he was.”