FOR most footballers the summer offers an opportunity for much-needed rest and recuperation. It is a time to put the feet up, lick the wounds and contemplate a long hard nine months on the road.
For others, in particular those just coming up through the ranks and eagerly awaiting a firstteam chance, August just can't come round quickly enough.
At Wolves, 16-year-old Mark Little is one who could be placed fairly and squarely in that bracket after a riproaring end to the last campaign at Molineux. The Worcesterborn defender, who turns 17 in August, began the season looking forward to improving his game in the Wolves' Academy and turning out for the under-18's on a Saturday morning.
But after injury to Aidan Lyons, a year older than Little, handed him an opportunity in the reserves he never looked back.
Not only did he end up turning out at Old Trafford for the second string, he was also one of the shining lights of Wolves' exhilarating surge to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup where at one point they moved within just three minutes of a place in the final. Mentioned regularly in despatches by manager Glenn Hoddle, much is now expected of Little, and it would be a brave bet to back against first-team debut at some point next season.
If such an opportunity arrives, whatever happens in terms of ability his character won't be found wanting.
"It has been an incredible season," reflects Little, taken on by Wolves when a 14-year-old schoolboy.
"From starting the season just playing for the Academy I was called in to play for the reserves at Sunderland in October. I couldn't believe I was travelling with them at that point and it took a while to sink in.
"Fortunately another Academy player Tom France was also starting so we stuck together.
"But once the game started the nerves disappeared and 'Jocky' Bjorklund, who has playing inside me at centre half, helped me through.
"It was certainly a shock to come up against senior players, who are obviously bigger and stronger than under-18s but also cleverer as well.
"I think I had a reasonable game and, with the likes of Jocky continuing to encourage me, I've gradually settled in to the level of football.
"It's been good to test myself against some senior players, against Manchester City I came up against Bradley Wright-Phillips who I'd seen on the telly and who was very quick. Against Liverpool Djimi Traore was coming back from injury and then recently at Manchester United I was up against David Bellion.
"It's all good experience, and if anyone had told me at the beginning of the season I'd be playing at Old Trafford I'd have said 'no chance', I wouldn't have believed it."
Who's to say that there won't be a similar sort of progression next time around?
Hoddle is a keen observer of that famous footballing cliche, 'if you're good enough, you're old enough'.
Little, a cool, calm and collected character off the pitch but driven and determined when he crosses the white line, is happy to wait for his chance.
But when the time does come - as with Matt Murray, Joleon Lescott, Mark Clyde and many more before him - the transition from Academy to first team is one he plans to take in his stride. "It's been a great few months and I can't believe how many people are coming out of the woodwork ringing me up and telling me how well I've played," he says.
"It's nice to get mentioned by the manager as well but I know I've got to keep my feet on the floor.
"Everything has happened very quickly but my ambition remains just to keep going as I have been and not get carried away.
"If my chance did come I'd probably be nervous at first but it wouldn't take long to settle down.
"Whatever happens, there's no point getting bigheaded and going off the rails - that sort of thing has happened with other young players and it's always a real shame."
Such a well-trodden route on the wrong side of the rails is one which Little is unlikely to follow given his well-rounded character.
And Academy director Chris Evans is hugely optimistic that he could prove the latest hot property off the conveyor belt of young talent.
"Mark is from a solid family background, his parents are very supportive and he is very level-headed," said Evans. "He used to be a fairly quiet lad but the communication side of his game has really developed.
"The litmus test comes when you move up to work with senior players - you have to let them know you're around and that's not being bigheaded, it's giving them due respect.
"Mark has so many attributes and is mature enough to deal with that situation and this season he has been handed his chance and has taken it with both hands."
So roll on August.