Gary Cennerazzo’s grandfather played for Rangers and he is also related to Hibernian legend Eddie Turnbull. So it is fair to assume the Spartans full-back won’t be fazed by seeing Barry Ferguson either standing on the touchline or lining up in opposition this afternoon when the Edinburgh side host Clyde in a Scottish Cup third-round fixture.
Cennerazzo recently stopped earning a living as a personal trainer to become a prison officer at Polmont Young Offenders Institution. The switch was motivated by football because he wanted to devote himself to the game in order to give himself every chance of following in the footsteps of grandfather James Walker, who played for Rangers in the 1950s.
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Cennerazzo can now rely on nine-to-five work hours between Monday and Friday. It means he is free to train in the evenings with Spartans, the club he joined from Edinburgh City in the summer after stints with Cowdenbeath and Arniston Rangers.
Now he is setting his sights on overcoming League Two side Clyde in the hope that he can seal a fourth-round tie with either Celtic, the team he supports, or Rangers. “It would be a dream playing a team like Celtic in the next round, but also Rangers, who I have family links with,” he explained yesterday. “My grandfather used to play for Rangers – he was Rangers through and through. So a big team like that would be fantastic. But we have to do the job on Saturday and then enjoy the draw.
“My grandpa was James Walker. He played for Rangers for a few years and also St Johnstone and East Fife. He played with Alex Ferguson – they were best friends at the time. So it would be good to draw them. And to play at Ibrox would be a dream.
“My grandpa’s cousin was also Eddie Turnbull at Hibs so it is all in the genes! It is a football family.”
“My grandpa has loads of scrapbooks and photos,” he continued. “He was known as the Blondie Bombshell in the papers – that is what they used to call him because he could hit a strike from 40 yards. He had a bullet of a shot. I love listening to his stories. They have given me inspiration. He has always been one of my idols and I want to get to a good level for him, and for my dad as well, who has coached me throughout my youth years. They will be there on Saturday.”
Cennerazzo has experienced a few high-octane clashes at Ainslie Park already this season, including one where he represented the Scottish Prison Service against their English counterparts. The game ended 1-1, perhaps just as well given the significance of the date on which the game was played. “It just so happened it was played on the day of the referendum – 18 September,” he said. “I am not sure if they picked that deliberately but it was surreal.
“We had the national anthems and it was the first time I have played in a game of that intensity. It was a good old battle between the auld enemies. It was just unfortunate that we could not get the win.”
But Cennerazzo is now looking ahead to this afternoon, when he hopes to end the Scottish Cup hopes of Barry Ferguson’s Clyde, who faced Spartans in the same competition in 1999.
“I respect him as a player even though I am a Celtic fan – he was fantastic to watch,” said Cennerazzo. “Fair play to him for coming back to Scotland to try to kickstart his managerial career.”
As for his own links with Rangers, can he rely on a thunderbolt shot like the one that saw his grandfather dubbed the “Blondie Bombshell” by newspapers? He does, at least, have the blond hair.
“I definitely have a good strike on me – I scored my first goal of the season on Saturday [against Burntisland Shipyard],” he said. “I definitely feel I should chip in with more goals. But I play left-back or right-back so I am really more about setting up goals.”
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