A team of big-hearted Douglas cyclists is setting its wheels in motion for a 200-mile trek in memory of a Scottish sporting icon.
John Jasper Smith, Keith Casey Burrell and Fraser Goodwin are getting ready for the Bill Shankly Memorial Cycle Ride – a journey that will take them from the Shankly gates at Anfield in Liverpool to Liverpool legend Bill Shankly’s hometown, Glenbuck in East Ayrshire.
The cycle, which has already received almost £1500 in sponsorship, will raise money for the Shankly Family Foundation and Glenbuck Football Academy – two organisations which promote grassroots football.
Organised by Liverpool supporters Shaun Moran and Tony Bonner, the three-day event commemorates the 20th anniversary of Shaun’s grandfather Jack’s walk of the route, and will also recreate the match Jack watched on his return to East Ayrshire.
John Jasper Smith said: “Bill Shankly has inspired so many people and his legacy lives on in Liverpool and in East Ayrshire.
“It’s something that football fans in both Scotland and England feel passionate about and it’s fitting that youngsters involved in football will benefit from this challenge.
“There’s a lot of excitement around this event; it’s getting people talking about its history and about how much of an impact Shankly had on football.
“We’re all ready for the off. We know it will be a challenge but we’re doing it in memory of a great man and to raise money that will benefit youngsters who are interested in the game.
“We’re very proud to be involved and to be raising money that will encourage young people to maintain an interest in sport.”
The Douglas trio will travel to Liverpool to meet with the rest of the team in preparation for kick off on April 29.
They will travel from Liverpool to Penrith on day one, Penrith to Abington on day two, and from Abington to the finishing line in Glenbuck on day three.
On their arrival in East Ayrshire, the riders will be part of a commemorative ceremony and will also get to see the 2016 Glenbuck Cherrypickers side take on the Shankly Family Foundation FC U14s.
Piper Chloe Cook (17) will welcome the cycle stars with a rendition of Shankly’s favourite song, Amazing Grace.
With a population of never more than 1700, Glenbuck produced around 50 footballers including former Liverpool boss Shankly, Alexander Tait, Sandy Brown and Johnny Crosbie.
The village team, Glenbuck Athletic - also known as The Cherrypickers - was set up in 1872 and playing stopped in 1931.
Robert Gillan, founder of Glenbuck Football Academy, said: “Glenbuck is only a wee village but it has given rise to so many fantastic players who have served as an inspiration to people all over the world. Bill Shankly was an idol to so many and he still motivates people to this day.
“We are passionate about getting youngsters interested in football and sport and in making sure that interest is maintained into their adult life.
“To benefit from the funds raised means so much and the money will have a tremendous impact on the youngsters at the academy.”
The event is being supported by Scottish Mines Restoration Trust and Signature Living in Liverpool.
To support it, visit www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/billshanklymemorialride2016