Growing up in the UK, the summers were surreal for me. There was the rare but glorious sunshine. The Butlin’s Holiday Camp. And spending time with relatives on my grandparent’s farm.
But it was also surreal because it was a rare moment for my favorite team, Swansea, to be playing friendlies against some of the top teams of that time. The Swans would play much bigger clubs such as Southampton, Crystal Palace and Tottenham. And oftentimes, seemingly against the odds, the small clubs — even non-league sides — would beat the top flight opposition.
As a child, seeing the result published on Ceefax, Teletext or in the newspaper the following morning was like a dream come true because you’d think that your team had suddenly improved by leaps and bounds after beating one of the giants. With hindsight, now I realize that those games were basically a way for the first team and reserves to concentrate on their fitness rather than taking the game too seriously. It was also an opportunity for players to prove their worth to the manager. But for the smaller clubs, they were massive boosts, not only in self confidence but also to the club’s bank account statement. For the supporters, these victories were a brief moment in the summertime where we could bask in the glory of victory.
I’m mentioning summer friendlies because today marks the beginning of preseason fixtures for Premier League clubs. This evening, Aston Villa plays FC Wil 1900 in Switzerland. Martin O’Neill’s side are the first EPL side to warm up this summer because of their upcoming Intertoto games. Good luck to the Villans.