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A single boot | Ass blog … an Arsenal blog

This interlull now feels very interlull. There is not much going on. Perhaps a consortium made up of the ghosts of Genghis Khan, Oliver Cromwell, Vlad the Impaler, and Maroon 5 could buy a Premier League club so we can have something to discuss.

Seems a little unlikely to be fair. We know the Premier League aptitude test is essentially nonsense that you can probably buy your way around, but there’s no way Maroon 5 could own a football club.

I mentioned last week that I had to clear out my father’s house, and that included going up to the attic and seeing what had been there for years. I have no idea why every single textbook my brother and I have ever had was still in a box, but then there was a 40 year old Scalextric. It took hours to set up and your car always flew off the track on the first corner. One of those where the idea for the toy was way better than the execution.

There was also a Gola football boot. Just this one. It was black and yellow and I remember wearing both when I was a kid. I had an Umbro gym bag that I put my gear in on Tuesdays and Thursdays to play for the Bushy Park Rangers here in Dublin. The games took place on a Saturday provided it wasn’t raining too hard.

I don’t quite understand why that was so, but the people who ran the parks seemed very careful when it rained. IN IRELAND! Obviously this was before the internet so you had to read one of the evening papers (the Evening Herald or the Evening Press) and they had details about the places that were closed that weekend. There was always a dagger in your heart when you saw ‘Bushy Park’ listed.

I loved it when it was wet. Having mud caked up a whole side of your body as the center half was like a badge of honor because it meant you had made slipping tackles – which is the very best kind of tackle, and I won’t hear about it from anyone else.

I know, I know, ‘get on your feet’ and all that, but there was never anything more satisfying than a boy who was faster than you, who tried to get away but didn’t quite make it because you were Captain Slide-a. -lot, the true superhero of football, who snatches the ball away from him at the last second. It was good to do a throw, but if you could wrap your foot around the ball, fly it in the air, get up, and make a pass or clearance that was as good as possible. We didn’t have to worry back then that the tackle was from behind, there were no real rules for it.

I remember our coach always doing exercises and saying things like “let the ball do the work” but he never explained what work the ball should do. I just liked preventing people from scoring points. Along with my Gola boots, I had shin guards that were a long way from today’s ultra-light, ultra-small models. Sometimes I look at players today and wonder if the tenderness of the shin is a thing of the past when they put a postage stamp-sized piece of plastic over their socks.

Back then we had huge things that stuck out like cricket pads. Someone could fire a cannonball at your lower leg and you had 100% protection. The only thing was when they got wet they got heavy and it was like walking with a pair of lead socks on. Maybe not the biggest problem if pace has never been an important part of your game, the first few meters are on your mind and all.

Have you ever smelled something and it took you back to a place or time? Or a fragrance that is so unique that you will never forget it? Even if I write about it now, I can smell the smell, which I’ll be referring to in a moment. It’s a Tuesday night, you come home from school, maybe do some of your homework, but probably not because that can wait, and get ready for training. You find your bag and when you open it you find that your wet kit has been in it since Saturday smelling like “Wet Football Kit”, a completely unique smell that can only be what it is.

That sweet, musty aroma of damp shorts, soaked socks and a shirt that feels clammy. Remember, there was none of that fancy nylon nonsense. This was the era of heavy stuff, any kind of towels or something, and if it got wet it stayed wet. What could you still do? We didn’t have access to cheap sports equipment, we didn’t have any spare items. You had what you had The only thing was, you were never alone. There were still a few guys who had done the same thing and wafted across the pitch with that wet jersey smell.

If you know, you know – and you can smell it now, right?

My 11 against days are over now, although I still play 5 against 5 on Fridays (but not every Friday now). Like so many kids, I always dreamed of becoming a footballer when I was growing up, but I was nowhere near enough engaged and I suspect there might have been a slight quality deficit when it came to the top level of the game too. Even so, during that hour on a Friday night, you can still pretend you’re bringing home the perfect finish and the crowd freaking out …

… There is no crowd (other than the one in my head).

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