Using speedway and football to spawn a new community interest in sport and life

Facing Gerry Facenna’s desk there’s a picture on the wall which bears an inscription from the Roman poet Virgil. It reads: They can because they think they can.

Both he and the ancient scholar know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, yet what Gerry aims to achieve for Possilpark, in Glasgow, could have historic meaning for young people in the area.

“I’m a great believer that the more you put in, the more you get back. I’ve always believed that. I’ve also always believed that whatever you think you can do you can do.”

Gerry and his brother Michael are native to the north of Glasgow. Their father, Carlo, owned and ran a garage in Saracen Street as far back as the 1960s. He’d surely be proud of what his sons have achieved with their business, Allied Vehicles, but also what they are doing and intend to do at Glasgow Tigers speedway track based just down the road at Ashfield Stadium.

The Facennas hit upon the idea of setting up a speedway school and football academy which would also look to train youngsters in mechanics, valeting and car body spray-painting.

Launching the Ashfield Development Charity, they aim to raise £4.5m and have recently put in a Regeneration Capital Grant Fund application to the Scottish Government.

Gerry’s passion for the area is palpable. By investing in this area’s favourite sports and pastimes, Allied Vehicles has helped transform the previously dilapidated Ashfield Stadium into a fully functioning Speedway track and football arena. Now he and his brother want to help the young people in the area realise a better kind of future and bring pride back into Possilpark.

He said: “We feel it’s time. We’ve come through tough times my brother and I and this is about putting something back into the community, especially Possilpark. The area is the second worst place in Scotland in terms of deprivation. There’s a lot of good people in Possilpark and they deserve a place they and their kids can come and feel safe and enjoy themselves.”

Speedway is a serious business around these parts. When Gerry got the keys to take over the running of the stadium, 30 people from the area turned up asking to help. One of the sport’s biggest fans, George Barkley, put in a large sum of money from his own savings to help the club.

“That’s what keeps the club alive, donations from fans. Not people with lots of money. People also volunteered their own time to help with repairs on the stadium. It’s their passion. It’s their club.”

tatts

One fan who has benefited from his commitment to the sport and the club is George Stevens. He loves speedway so much he even has Glasgow Tigers tattoos emblazoned on his arms. George offered his services as a joiner free of charge to get the stadium up to scratch. However, Gerry and his team were so impressed with his commitment and abilities that they offered him a full-time position as maintenance man at the stadium and with Allied Vehicles.

George bleeds speedway and has been hooked since his father first took him to Hampden Stadium back in 1971 for his first experience of the sport.

He said: “I really recall the smell and the noise and since then I’ve always been involved with speedway. Gerry asked me if I wanted a job and I’ve really landed on my feet. It’s an absolutely ideal job for me.”

Yet Gerry hasn’t neglected to include Scotland’s favourite sport as part of his plans for the future. Given the popularity of football in Glasgow, it’s easy to see why Ashfield Stadium would be an ideal venue for a football academy.

This Saturday, Danish football legend Brian Laudrup will be at Ashfield Academy of Football for its official opening, where he will share his knowledge with 22 lucky youngsters.

The plans being put in place include a new facility behind the stadium with a smaller training track for speedway. Gerry wants to share the community spirit that supporters feel for the sport with others and thinks it might just be the perfect way to solve some of Possilpark’s long-standing social problems.

He said: “I think this is a chance to teach young kids who might have got into trouble some discipline. It offers them something they want. We don’t have one Scottish speedway rider now but I know where the future riders are…they’re round the corner in Fruin Street in stolen cars and on stolen bikes.”

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