John Arlott's on the radio, Ted Dexter's at the crease A distant Suffolk Colt, rattles the leisured peace The knotted bramley apple, spreads its shading arms Those long-lost boyhood summers, will never lose their charms
Sorry about that, but I happened upon one of those magical late summer moments, this week, which reminded me of just how close the start of the football season is (only a fortnight for Cris'sakes), how the times have changed and of my own storehouse of treasured memories of such times in my youth - it almost brought a tear to my eye, so it did.
I came upon a dads & lads get together over the local park, with the lads decked out in their Villa shirts, not to mention a few traitorous less local brands, and their brand new trainers, all with that spark of immense enjoyment in their eyes; while the dads were doing their best impression of a grown-up who knows what he is talking about. The boys were standing in a circle doing a bit of two-touch (one to control and one to pass), and one of the dads was explaining the efficiency of the side of the foot, when making an accurate pass and sonny was doing the trapping (do they still call it that?) and the passing, with an air of rapt concentration and unsuppressed joy.
I had an overwhelming desire, to ask if I could play but I couldn't decide whether the role of football sage, or football-crazy boy-child suited me best or least. I stowed my dignity and departed: a man in a reverie.
It was a joy to behold but I had to admit that these things never happened in my day. Apart from the material differences: the kit they wore and the case-balls, they had in abundance, such scenes just never happened in my youth and when some dad broke ranks and actually did some coaching, it was considered the height of paternal indulgence. I can honestly say that apart from a privileged few, in my day, no coaching took place at all, not even and especially not at school.
What is ironic, is that back then, when we lacked the kit and enough adults with the inclination to coach, we had all the time in the world, where we played until it was dark down the 'Reck', and now they have the fancy kit, a whole generation of dads who think they are the Special One, and the parks are practically football-free zones, through even the longest school holidays. Its funny how these things work out but I couldn't help but wonder, what sort of wondrous outcome there would be, if the freedom to play all day, of previous generations was combined with the indulgence of modern times.
I apologise once again for such indulgent reverie and blather but I really need something to distract me from the sheer tediousness of the Gareth Barry saga. The whole thing has been done to death and has taken on the long-winded character of a Wagner opera where someone gets stabbed and they spend the next hour singing about it, before finally shuffling off their mortal coil.
Its just been an endless stream of that sort of crap, which makes you lose patience with football. When Rafael Benítez signed Robbie Keane and revealed he had more than enough money to have completed the deal months ago, only one conclusion could be drawn from the whole farrago and that is unprintable.
Should he still go and Martin O'Neill is proven to be guilty of using the fans' website to continue his game of brinkmanship with Liverpool's dodgy Spaniard, my opinion of him will be somewhat lower than previously. Should Gareth stay I will be happy but my joy will be based more on pragmatism than starry-eyed affection.
One thing is for certain, I now fully understand why Spanish football clubs share such mutual hatred, for each other, if the behaviour of Rafael Benitez is typical of the way they do their transfer business. The FA should have rules about these things - sorry, they already have, but no one can be arsed to enforce them. The whole affair has been like Picasso's Guernica but with bullshit instead of bombs.
But for sure, I, like many, have never been much of a fan of the story of the prodigal son, it always seems totally unjust that the wastrel should get the fatted-calf and all that fuss, while the son who stayed home and was loyal, got naff all. So let us celebrate the skills and the loyalty of the players who are still proud to wear the Villa shirt and take joy in them, instead of wasting time and emotions, worrying about a guy who seems not to be too worried about us.
Let us celebrate the dribbling wizardry of Ashley Young and the sheer quality of those crosses. Let us celebrate the awesome power of big John Carew, who is unplayable on his day. Let us celebrate the one and only Gabby Agbonlahor, the kid from Erdington who is on the verge of breaking into the England squad. Let us celebrate the walking, running, leaping, heading, tackling miracle, that is Martin Laursen, who got off his sick-bed and walked on water, last season. Let us celebrate the return of Curtis Davies, who was so key to Villa's best run of form last season. Let us celebrate all those players who played their part, the battling Reo-Coker, those bits of magic from Shaun Maloney and Stilian Petrov and the heroic graft of unsung Marlon Harewood.
Let us look forward to the contribution the new players have yet to make.
And let us dwell on this glorious summer and not leap into any imagined winters of discontent, too soon.
Summer breeze makes me feel fine Blowing through the jasmine in my mind