Danial Pratt wins Supporter of the Year
Congratulations to Danial Pratt, who has been awarded the GISC Supporter of the Year award.
Danial, who went to his first home game in 1991, was nominated for all the hard work he does for Gillingham fans. He is the secretary for the GISC and also attends Football Supporters Association meetings (formally the FSF) on behalf of Gillingham supporters.
Danial, who was presented with a glass trophy and shield, said: “I am honoured to receive the Supporter of the Year trophy from my fellow committee members who volunteer their precious time to keep GISC going. It isn't always easy, so it would be great if more people could support our events, like the monthly quizzes and our away coach travel, or better still, join the committee and bring some fresh ideas to the table!”
When asked about his Gillingham memories Danial continued: “I was taken to my first home game by my Mum, Dad and Grandad in March 1991 against Scunthorpe, with Paul Baker scoring in a 1-1 draw. I was a bit young to appreciate it and started going regularly after the 1994 World Cup, and becoming a Town End regular. I was hooked even if it wasn't the best time with the threat of "receivership" hanging over the club.
“The next season was truly amazing though, with Tony Pulis coming in and turning things around and winning promotion in 1995/95, and I was lucky enough to be a lucky mascot for a 1-0 home win against Rochdale for my 10th birthday!
“Since then, I've been to pretty much every home game I could whilst living at home, as there have been spells away at uni and working for 2 years in Germany. I am trying to tick off as many away grounds as possible, sitting on about two-thirds of the 92 completed. I've moved around Priestfield from the Town End to the Medway Stand, the Gordon Road stand for 2 seasons and now the Rainham End for the last 2 seasons.”
Danial reflected on his favourite player, as well as the best and worst memories of being a Gills fan: “My favourite Gills player of all time is probably Iffy Onuora for delivering the goods in both spells, although Hessenthaler and Ade Pennock push him close. The best player I have seen at the Gills has to be Paulo Gazzaniga- I just knew from the moment I saw him for the first time that he could go to the very top level.
“My best memories are pretty obvious, Wembley 2000 (Andy Thomson's header is the best moment of all!) and 2009 and the League 2 title under Martin Allen in 2012/13.
“Worst memories: Wembley 1999 (a travesty of corrupt refereeing), the 2005 relegation from the Championship and the worst day ever, the 2010 relegation at an already-relegated Wycombe." Football is not just about the game, but about bringing friends and family together. Sadly for Danial one memory goes beyond the pitch, the sad passing of his Grandad. Danial recalled his saddest memory saying: "The last one went beyond the pitch, as my grandad, a Gills fan of more than 60 years, had died suddenly the morning of the match of a massive heart attack. Gills home games were pretty much how we bonded over the years, and it just hasn't been the same since. I was hoping the team could pull just one away win out of the hat and stay up, but when everything needs to go wrong for the Gills to go down, it usually happens and the players made sure they finished the season with not a single away win in the league, going down 3-0 in a spineless display. I remember the long walk back to High Wycombe station with my brother afterwards, literally speechless.”
When asked about the GISC and his involvement with the FSA, Danial revealed that it was a meeting with Mark Agate at one of the GISC quiz nights which prompted him to help the GISC.
He added: “I joined the GISC committee in 2011 after talking to Mark Agate at one of the monthly GISC quizzes and started going to away games on the GISC coach, which got off to a good start with a 6-1 win at Hereford (the biggest ever Gills league away win, unless I'm mistaken). Since Mark's untimely passing in 2012, I have taken on the mantle of attending regional and national football supporter meetings to network and learn from other clubs about the good and bad things that go on at their clubs or in the governance of the game, so good ideas can be suggested and bad ones nipped in the bud!
“Looking forward, I would love to see the sport in a healthier state at the lower reaches of the game, because the financial gap is growing all the time, and there need to be more proactive policies to redistribute TV monies to keep the game alive at the grass roots and lower levels where all players start. I would also like to see more democratic ownership models for clubs in the UK that are closer to the German model, so that decisions are made that put the fans first and respect the culture and traditions of clubs, because too much money is going out of the game.
“I am hopeful that the new Football Supporters Association (created by the merger of the Football Supporters' Federation and Supporters Direct) will be able to push for positive change in the English game and hold the suits at the FA, EFL and Premier League to account when their next brain fart idea like the EFL Trophy format occurs!"
He concluded: “At the Gills? I would like us to try and bring young exciting players through but also for the crowd to unite and get behind the team, and for the club to have more dialogue with the supporters, so that Priestfield or a new ground is a happier more fun place to be.”
Congratulations once again Danial, we couldn’t think of a more worthy winner.