Spartans’ Gary Cennerazzo may have been enjoying a footballing adventure in Sweden since the summer, but he faces a familiar challenge when his team travel to Whitehill Welfare in the Ferrari Packing Lowland League.
The defender has returned to Ainslie Park on loan from Melleruds IF during the Swedish close season, and will continue his career in Scandinavia after the new year – a change of scene he’s very much enjoyed.
“It’s been a great experience and I definitely want to go back,” Cennerazzo enthused. “I’ve got opportunities to go and train with some First Division teams so it’s an exciting time. With the season finishing in October it was a good opportunity for me to keep match fit with Spartans. They’ve got a few injury problems and I was asked to help out and I was glad to do it.”
Cennerazzo’s journey to south western Sweden was a roundabout one.
“I was on tour with an American team, the Tulsa Roughnecks,” he explained. “They were taking players from all over the world on trial and had contacts over in Sweden. A friend whose coaching in America put me in touch with the Mellerud assistant coach. It was an opportunity for them to see me, so I sent them my CV with some video footage. They got in contact when I was over there and told me there was an opportunity for me to sign and play there for three months. It’s the equivalent of someone like Berwick Rangers in our League 2. I hadn’t signed for anyone here and they were looking at players for next season. They’re professional but weren’t doing very well and thought I could help them out with my experience, so I just went for it. I’m glad I did because it’s now opened up other doors.
“They’re a part-time club in terms of wage structure. The boys work during the day but we train every day. It’s full-time time training, which is brilliant – that’s what I loved. I didn’t work – they looked after me, put me up in an apartment, paid for my wi-fi, food and everything. It’s been well worth it.”
The left back feels the standard he’s returned to temporarily compares well with the level he was at in Sweden. “The team I was with, Spartans would’ve given them a game,” he said. “I don’t know if they would have beaten them. Spartans beat Clyde and Morton last year, and you see Lothian Thistle beating Montrose this week, so Melleruds are probably the equivalent of League 2. It’s a decent standard and the facilities are second to none, but the football is totally different – very laid back and technically great.”
Having also gained experience of a different footballing calendar, Cennerazzo believes summer football is the way forward. “They’ve got the right idea. I know Sweden does get a lot worse weather in terms of snow from November through to January etc, but I think it’s crazy that over here we play through the winter. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to leave – to get away from the miserable, cold nights, the pitches being terrible. Luckily Spartans have the artificial pitch, but the majority of semi-pro and Junior games are getting cancelled due to weather. Summer football would be ideal, but we’re probably a long way from getting it.”
Short term, Cennerazzo has Whitehill to worry about. “If Spartans can win their games in hand they can be right up there. Whitehill will be trying to do the same. It’ll be a battle – it’s always a closely contested game so I’m looking forward to it.”