Italian trip is just the job for Jags stalwarts

THEY will live La Dolce Vita for a fortnight … but it won't be a case of all play and no hard work.

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Barry McLelland (at front, in red) and his group. Picture: Colin Templeton
Barry McLelland (at front, in red) and his group. Picture: Colin Templeton

Many people will jet out to Italy for two weeks in the sun this summer but the group that departs this morning will do so with more than the good weather and fine food on their minds.

Eighteen volunteers and three members of staff from the Partick Thistle Community Trust will make their way to Rimini and the Sportilia training complex to kick off what could prove to be a life-changing few days for those involved.

As part of the Leonardo da Vinci Lifelong Learning initiative, the group will learn the local lingo and make trips to discover the history of their new surroundings.

But it is the time on the football pitch that could prove most useful and insightful for the Glaswegians who have spent several months helping those on their doorstep through a range of programmes and schemes.

"We have got a busy schedule and the World Cup is on as well so we will get to support Italy when they play against England," PTCT director Barry McLelland told SportTimes.

"We are going to be meeting Christian Lattanzio, who is Fabio Capello's former mental trainer. And we are going to Coverciano to see the Italy under-15s playing. We went there last time. It was excellent, a great facility.

"You feel so inspired when you walk in, there are pictures everywhere of them with World Cups and winners' medals.

"It is a vocational trip so we are going to be doing a lot of coaching while we are there and one of the sessions will be with Massimo Agostini, the former AC Milan and Roma player."

McLelland has been at the heart of the growth of Thistle's increased presence in the community in recent years, working with a range of organisations and charities to bring together people of all ages and from all backgrounds.

The Jags travelling party has representatives from Enable Scotland, Glasgow City Council's assisted supported learning employability programme and a host of other Glasgow groups.

The trip to Italy is the latest stage in their development but it is also a reward for their endeavours, with SportTimes columnist Davie Hay set to play his part.

McLelland said: "It is a great incentive for the participants, they know that if they apply themselves then they can be rewarded by this trip.

"It is incredible the impact it has on the group. A lot of the last group ended up doing coaching work with us.

"The group is so diverse in their backgrounds. A lot of them had to get passports for the first time to go.

"Davie comes over and does his external verification and speaks to the guys. He does a Q&A with the group and it is great to have someone of his stature with us."

With a hectic schedule of visits, sessions and seminars ahead over the next two weeks at their Italian base, McLelland and his staff will have little time to relax and take pride at their achievements.

The community trust is thriving at a time when Thistle as a whole are looking at a brighter future, their place in the SPFL Premiership secured for another season thanks to boss Alan Archibald and his squad.

McLelland said: "The speed of growth in the community department has been terrific. With the academy being set up, there is a real synergy there and we can share coaches and ideas and bring each other on.

"We are totally self-sufficient from the club but, in terms of profile, being in the Premiership does have benefits and a major impact on what we do."


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