Let me take you back to the Manchester United game, and tell you about an off-the-record conversation with Paul Lambert.
I was working at the match. I hate having to sit in the Press Box and behave myself at City fixtures, but my choice was the Carling Cup final or Carrow Road and so it was no choice.
Crushed by Ryan Giggs’ late winner but lifted by Sir Alex Ferguson’s honest appraisal that Norwich didn’t deserve to lose, I composed and filed my report, exchanged niceties with friends in the hack pack, left the media room – and bumped into Lambert on his way to his car.
And here’s the thing. I was OK about the result, but he wasn’t. I was philosophical about losing narrowly to one of the world’s richest clubs, because I remembered that, two years ago that weekend, we’d had a single goal victory over another team from Greater Manchester – Oldham, in League One.
But Lambert was desolate. Away from the media interviews and with his guard down, he was utterly crest-fallen.
I always rage at the moaners and the snipers who, even this season, can find something to make themselves miserable before they phone Radio Norfolk or log-in to message boards.
Yet Lambert was less able to deal with a defeat than any of them. You’ve got to love the guy.
The truth though is that losing to United – or Leicester in the FA Cup the week before, or horrible Stoke in that dreadful game the week after – did not matter. And, far be it from me to lecture the manager, but all of us should spend more time contemplating the epic performances than this season’s few disappointments.
I mean, come on, how did City become so good that they could brush aside Swansea with 17 barnstorming minutes of second half magnificence?
How did we reach a situation where, before and after England’s Wembley defeat by the Dutch, there was serious, informed debate about whether our skipper should have played?
Above all, how is it possible that a mid-table finish in the Premier League is all but nailed on?
We are in danger of taking what has been achieved for granted, as just another chapter in the Norwich narrative. But it is much, much more than that.
Two years ago this month, Chrissy Martin scored that last gasp winner against Leeds at Carrow Road which allowed us to dream that we might win League One.
I’ve still got a framed picture of that goal in my cloakroom (classy!). But for Lambert’s City to have continued their climb as quickly as they have is the stuff of implausible fiction.
It is probable that, by the time the season ends, City will be about 60 places higher than they were when Lambert took charge.
No fans of any club have had such cause for celebration for decades because no manager has achieved anything like that in the modern era.
The last man to guide a club to successive promotions and land in the Premier League was former Norwich striker Joe Royle, who did it with Manchester City eleven years earlier. But the blue City went straight down again. Royle lost his job and had to take work in the county north of Essex.
The yellow City are staying up.
I say that with the certainty of someone who has seen all the clubs bunched near the bottom. I watched Wolves (boo!) implode at Craven Cottage last weekend. Their tactics, organisation and application were as poor as anything I have seen on my professional or leisure-time travels for several seasons.
Yet I was at Molineux on the final day of last season – “Survival Sunday” – when Wolves stayed up.
Five teams began the afternoon in peril of joining already-relegated West Ham in the bottom three. Two of them, Wolves and Blackburn, met in the game I was covering and when Steve Kean’s Rovers took a 3-0 half-time lead over Mick McCarthy’s Wanderers, believe me, it would not have been a good moment to engage any of the locals in discussion – tempting though it was to tell them how the former employers of Kevin Muscat can never expect my sympathy.
But Wolves hit back. By 87 minutes, they had scored twice which gave them an identical goal-difference to Birmingham. They would have stayed up on goals scored. But things might change…
They did. News came through that, in stoppage time, Roman Pavlyuchenko had scored his second goal for Spurs against Birmingham and Wolves were safe by a whole point. So too were Blackburn, of course, and Molineux became one big, mad party.
My own over-riding emotion was: “I really, really hope City don’t have to endure a Survival Sunday.”
Our joyous Championship season had ended 15 days earlier. We knew we were bound for the Premier League and – come on, let’s be honest with each other – the prospect of another 2004-05 was on our minds. In Lambert we trusted, but how would Holty and Co cope in the top division?
Now we know the answer.
Our club have given us three of the best seasons of our lifetimes. We owe it to Lambert and his players to acknowledge that and to continue smiling, singing and cheering.
It’s probably a good thing that Lambert is damaged by defeats, but the rest should not let them distract us from the utter wonder at what we have witnessed during his reign.