We line up for kick-off and I look at the opposition for the first time. From a distance all teams look the same, a collection of figures yet to separate out into recognisable types. You make the calculations of weight, height and speed. You look for weak links and familiar giveaways. Just for a moment football feels a bit like fighting.
Today there are no obvious signs of weakness in the opposition, no pale camel-like figures fretting in the unaccustomed strip. You get a good idea from the boots (worn in?), the amount of faded white strapping on knees (sign of the seasoned player), and even from the nicknames. Beware of the bantering team. This lot look as though they've shared the same playground, clubhouse, family Christmases and shrinking gene pool for the last thirty years. Proper pub teams are rare these days. When you do meet one you know you're going to get a game.