Today is my 'sort of'' birthday. When there is no 29th of February, I usually opt for 1st March as a substitute. It is a time for getting a bit misty eyed and nostalgic for the ‘old days’. Actually most of the old days were rubbish but with my newly acquired age-related rose tinted eyesight that matters not and amongst the wealth of good times one or two fond memories sit above the rest. Most of my best moments have a music based foundation but not the one I am about to relate. This has to do with football and no rose tinted sight is necessary here.
I am about 10 years old and it is roughly 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I am sitting on the cold parquet flooring of my junior school classroom by the shoe racks putting on my football boots. Why? Because it is a school match day and I am captain of the rabble we call our school football team, about to take on another rabble from the local school a mile or so away.
My heartbeat is quickening and my breathing getting shorter as adrenalin floods through my body. The anticipation is almost unbearable and I love it. If I was to pick the best feeling in the world it would be this moment. Not only am I about to miss French/English/Maths on offer that afternoon (strike out those that do not apply), I am about to do the one thing I love most in the world – play football for my school.
Outside, it is late autumn and a watery sun tries in vain to penetrate the mist that hangs around the football pitch, now carpeted with autumnal leaves from the towering Elms that line the school field. The morning dew still clings to the grass and sends up a halo of wetness as the sodden leather ball zips across it. I am proudly wearing a school football shirt (with real cuffs and collars – that dates me) of pillar-box red with white sleeves, the same as the Arsenal in those days and feel a million dollars. We line up and the match starts…
We probably won that day – we normally did, having a half decent team which finished top of Division 3 that year and won promotion to Division 2. It was a time of youthful exuberance and a certain naivety about life to come. No baggage, no regrets. Whilst I can still feel the heady exhilaration of those times, I know that I will never recapture them. It was a time that only the young can experience. When I look at the 10 year old me now, I see an enthusiasm that I no longer have and a head full of dreams of playing forever.
The dream ended abruptly the following September when I transferred to secondary school. A rugby playing school.