It was a spirited contest at Muirkirk, of which the great man would have surely approved. A local select side from the Glenbuck area revived the name of the famous Cherrypickers one more time as they played out a 1-1 draw with counterparts from Merseyside. This was a testimonial to raise funds for the Glenbuck Academy and the Shankly Family Foundation, but what followed was a fiercely competitive encounter, both sides desperate to win as soon as they crossed that white line. As Bill Shankly often preached, winning is everything.
Honours even at the end, it was probably fitting that both sides shook hands and shared the Bill Shankly Memorial trophy after a testy encounter. But the day was about much more than a game of football, the culmination of a week's events and long planning. The two groups from each end of the country came together to share their common link, and are hoping to use it for the benefit of local football going forward.
A charity cycle tour had made its way from Merseyside overnight, and the day's events began fittingly with a short ceremony at Glenbuck's Shankly memorial, as a piper played in the visitors to 'Amazing Grace'. The group then heard from Bill Shankly's niece, Barbara Alexander, for a personal insight into the man and what drove him from this small Ayrshire mining background to his future success. The organisers of the Memorial Bike Ride, Shaun Moran and Tony Bonner, also spoke about the cycle ride and continuing the Shankly legacy in Liverpool.
The Glenbuck Football Academy is now hoping this annual fixture between the two sides plays a part in reviving local football in the Ayrshire/ Lanarkshire area, with plans afoot to build a museum at Glenbuck. With 2000 visitors a year coming from Merseyside, plus local interest, the hope is to use this to stimulate grassroots football in the local community. Glenbuck Academy's Robert Gillan believes the Academy would be a fitting tribute to Glenbuck's rich footballing heritage going forward, and should be at the heart of any future developments.
"Glenbuck has a special and unique history, and we know that some of this can rub off on the young footballers of today. They are learning all the time about the talent that came here from the past, and that is an inspiration. They are also learning to play as a team, which is as important in life as in football", he says.
"To benefit from the funds raised this weekend means so much and the money will have a tremendous impact on the youngsters at the academy." Gillan says.