Liverpool supporter Dan Wakefield has today been crowned the inaugural 'Standard Chartered Fan of the Month' for September.
In a new initiative launched between the club and our main sponsors, we have been asking for supporters to nominate either themselves or somebody they feel is deserving of being crowned 'Fan of the Month'.
From the hundreds of entries submitted, a short-list was presented to the judging panel, comprising Managing Director Ian Ayre, legendary striker and club ambassador Ian Rush, Standard Chartered Head of Corporate Affairs Gavin Laws and journalist Tony Barrett from The Times.
While all our finalists were commended for their devotion to and support of Liverpool Football Club, the overwhelming choice of the panel was to name Dan Wakefield as our first Standard Chartered Fan of the Month.
Dan suffers with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a condition which means the nerves to his muscles don't work properly, necessitating the use of an electric wheelchair.
Despite his disability, Dan lives life to the full and is a familiar face among travelling Kopites both at home and abroad.
"I first started going to the games when I was 8 and the first game that I attended was Liverpool vs. Wimbledon in 1995 in the league," he recalls. "The Crazy Gang had about 45 supporters at Anfield that night, and amazingly Liverpool had three goals disallowed from what I can remember. The match ended 2-2 and I haven't looked back since.
"I've followed Liverpool all my life, and along the way I've had some wonderful, but also some nightmare experiences following us all over the world. Shortly, after having spinal surgery to correct a curvature of my spine during the treble season, I got a collapsed lung resulting in a bad chest infection. I ended up in Alder Hey for six weeks just as the cup finals were about to start in 2001. Despite this, I managed to secure permission to leave the ward for the day and off I went to Cardiff, albeit with a drip in my arm and not in the best shape. But there was no way that I was missing my chance to see us lift my first trophy as a supporter of LFC, as I was too young and too ill to go to the Coca-Cola and Worthington Cup finals of 1995 and 2001!
"Going away in Europe is never easy for anyone, but with a disability it's always inherently more complicated, but if I can get there and it's feasible, I always make sure I'm there if I can get there.
"I'm not going to lie though, I've had some nightmares following LFC. The biggest one I've had is when we played Real Madrid away in 2009, and shortly after landing in Madrid Airport they dropped my wheelchair while taking it out of the hold of the plane. They decided to put the wheelchair on the back of a flat bed truck and transport it to the terminal as they didn't have an ambi-lift available at the time. But unfortunately disaster struck and a wheelchair weighing 165kg rolled off causing 3,000 pounds worth of damage and consequently left me without the wheelchair for the day. In order to go the game, I had to borrow a push along wheelchair that was entirely unsuitable and put a board behind my head just so I could keep my head upright due to its inadequateness. At least we won though, and that's what it's all about isn't it, going to those places and winning in one of the big European cathedrals. It's an intrinsic part of this club's brand identity."
Dan's story won over our judging panel, all of whom were impressed with his devotion to the LFC cause and will receive an LFC shirt and trophy as well as being put forward to the Standard Chartered Fan of the Season contest.
Ian Rush selected Dan as his winner 'because of his love for LFC', while Tony Barrett insisted he would make a worthy first recipient of the award.
"At the start of September I was asked to pick out the five greatest players in Liverpool's history and place them in order. A month later, I am still to come up with a definitive list having changed my mind pretty much every single day," said Barrett.
"That, though, seemed as straightforward as deciding between Kenny Dalglish and Sean Dundee when I was presented with the contenders for the inaugural Standard Chartered Fan of the Month. All put forward outstanding cases to be the first ever winner of the award and separating them was an incredibly difficult task.
"A winner had to be chosen and in the end my vote went to Dan because his commitment to Liverpool and willingness to follow them wherever and whenever they play goes way beyond the norm. Anyone who regularly travels away with Liverpool will know Dan and I cannot think of a more worthy recipient of the first Fan of the Month award."
Nominations are now being invited for the October Fan of the Month.
Do you, or someone you know, demonstrate an exceptional passion for the club and what it means to be a Liverpool fan? Has your dedication led you to travel the furthest? Work the hardest? Or go the extra mile in your support? Do you know the kind of fan that makes this club special by helping those around them? Do you ensure that others never have to walk alone? Is there someone within the Liverpool fan community that is an unsung hero that you think deserves recognition?
This is your chance to tell us. Please email email@example.com, telling us in no more than 250 words how you are committed, or how you are inspired by someone else's commitment. The closing date for nominations is October 28.