THERE is nothing like having a child starting high school to make you suddenly feel very old. Just how is the baby you brought home from hospital all of – what, three years ago, surely? – suddenly in long trousers and strapping himself in for seven periods of educational fun every day? It is hard to get your head around.

But life comes at you fast. And there will come a point on that journey when the realisation dawns that you have probably got more days behind than ahead of you. And isn’t that a cheery thought for a Sunday morning.

Still, it isn’t all bad. Among the benefits of getting older is the growing library of sporting memories and moments it presents you with to reflect on nostalgically.

Footage and photos of old games can take us back 30 or 40 years in a split second but it is the tales of life away from the pitch that truly stir the senses.

Footballers were feted back then just as now but they weren’t different to the rest of us. They travelled on public transport, drank in the same pubs and lived in the same streets as other ordinary working people.

There were always stories about someone who grew up next to a professional who would come home from a day’s training to then join in with a spontaneous kick-about with the kids down the road. It was like a tale from a comic book.

Rangers legend Sandy Jardine used to talk about taking the tube to training every day, sitting next to the same fans who would be cheering him on the Saturday – or giving him dog’s abuse at the next Old Firm derby.

At the time of hearing that story it was hard to get your head around the idea of an international footballer mingling daily with the masses. Almost 20 years later it seems almost absurd. But that was the way of it. Neither player nor punter thought anything of this co-existence. It was just how life was.

But not any longer. The gap between fan and player has become such a vast chasm to the point where each group lives an almost entirely separate existence, largely independent from the other.

Money is at the root of the ever-growing gulf, of course. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, footballers may have earned more than most but not significantly so. They were still bidding for the same houses, buying similar cars, wearing the same clothes.

Now the paths of these two disparate groups barely cross. Even the one place where their worlds would regularly converge – at a football stadium – is currently out of bounds.

Footballers on the books of elite clubs now boast such vast earning power that it provides them with a lifestyle so different to the ordinary supporter that it feels like an alternative universe.

Huge houses are sought in areas where only the super wealthy can afford to live. Shiny cars are bought from exclusive showrooms. Designer clothes come from stores that only permit certain clientele to browse. Public transport? Does Uber count?

Even the training grounds are cut off from the rest of the world, sprawling out-of-town complexes protected by miles of fencing and electronic entry systems.

If those fans who gather hopefully outside Lennoxtown or Auchenhowie hoping to get a glimpse of their heroes are lucky, a player may deign to lower the tinted windows of their souped-up sports cars to quickly sign an autograph before screeching away.

Add that obsessive level of hero worship to the modern-day player’s huge wealth and you create a sense of entitlement. That somehow the same rules that apply to the rest of the population aren’t meant for you.

The recent breaches of Covid regulations by the Aberdeen 8 and Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli have left many people scratching their heads in bewilderment wondering just how anyone could be so reckless or selfish.

But when you place young athletes on a pedestal and shower them with endless money then it perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of them subsequently believe they can effectively do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Society and sport have to take part of the blame for creating this mindset. Firstly by fawning over elite athletes to such a degree that they start to feel invincible. And, secondly, by creating a wealth structure that can pay them more in a week than most people will earn in a year. Or, in some cases, a lifetime.

You only have to look at the recent situation at Arsenal for an example of a footballer’s life being deemed to be worth significantly more than others.

In the same week that 55 members of staff were being made redundant – some of whom would probably be on no more than £30,000 a year – the club announced they were signing Willian from Chelsea on a salary in the region of £200,000 a week. Little wonder that many footballers believe their perceived worth means they can effectively act with impunity.

There will almost certainly be other footballers in Scotland who have flouted the Covid guidelines but just haven’t yet been caught. We shouldn’t be shocked if or when they finally are. This has been their mindset for some time now.