From Dingwall to Dumfries,we’ll pitchin to helpschool

It’s an ambitious 1000-mile trip that will take them to every corner of Scotland – and beyond.
Graeme Bruce, left, and  Phil Smith will cycle 1000 miles over 12 days. Picture: Ian GeorgesonGraeme Bruce, left, and  Phil Smith will cycle 1000 miles over 12 days. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Graeme Bruce, left, and Phil Smith will cycle 1000 miles over 12 days. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Two determined parents from Balerno are preparing to set off on a mammoth 12-day cycle around all 42 league football teams in Scotland as part of a bid to raise funds for a new playing pitch – with a quick stopover in England to visit League Two side Berwick Rangers.

Graeme Bruce and Phil Smith will take to their saddles in an effort to boost the 
fundraising target needed to resurface an unusable ash pitch at Balerno High School.

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The old playing field is often out of use for up to nine months a year due to its poor condition and waterlogging – with parents fearing the shabby surface is barring their children’s access to sport.

And with £72,000 already stumped up by the local community, Graeme and Phil need to secure just £28,000 more to have enough money to turn dreams of a new pitch into a reality.

The duo will visit every league football stadium in the country over the course of the their travels – beginning with Livingston on Tuesday and ending their journey at Tynecastle on May 2.

Graeme, 51, who has two children at Balerno High, admitted the vast task ahead of them would be a “challenge”.

He said: “We’ll be averaging about 85 miles a day for 12 consecutive days. I’m in my early 50s and Phil is in his late 40s – we’re not spring chickens any more.

“We’ve done very little training. I’ve been cycling to work a few times but I think we’re going on the premise that the training starts when we get on our bikes on Tuesday. It’s a challenge, at the end of the day.

“We’re going into England for one of the clubs, Berwick Rangers. We’re going to take a selfie outside each stadium to prove that we made it, but we haven’t got much time. If they’ve got time to take us on the pitch then great, but if not then we will just crack on.

“Any extra money we raise will go into the maintenance of the pitch and things like equipment.”

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The pair – who will cycle from 8am until 6pm every day during the challenge – have form when it comes to unusual bike-based fundraisers, having cycled to Paris in 2010 to raise cash for an interactive whiteboard for the school.

When completed, Balerno High’s new all-weather 2G pitch will provide a local training facility for the school’s hockey teams – Balerno is the only state school in Edinburgh to field boys’ hockey sides – as well as being used for netball, lacrosse, tennis and football.

Liz Carrie, treasurer of the parent council and a key figure in the fundraising efforts, said it was hoped the new playing field would drive up participation in sport and improve PE at the school.

The mum-of-five said: “It’s been an ongoing issue. The pitch has been there since the school opened, and you can’t use it for nine months of the year. In wet weather it’s flooded and in dry weather it’s unplayable as it becomes a dust bowl.

“The PE department is effectively down one classroom. But this won’t just be for the school, it would be a community asset. It’s about inclusion. There’s nothing to promote teenage girls getting into sports like hockey and netball.

“They come up from primary school really, really interested in the sports and then it seems to wane.”