There are 21 Championship games left. Fractionally over 45 per cent of the campaign still to go.
Is that sufficient for the great club from the fine City to claw back the eight-point gap advantage the current top two have?
Well, I imagine the rest of the division thinks it is unlikely. But the view from the back row of the Yellow Army’s encampment at the Goldsands Stadium, Bournemouth, convinced me it is definitely do-able.
My MFW colleague Gary Gowers says “It’s a little easy to over-eulogise” the win on the South Coast. Elsewhere, another blogger says: “Let’s not get carried away.” And, infamously, I am prone to preach about tempering our expectations.
But, for once, stuff that.
Bournemouth are not top by accident. Even after their defeat by us, they have harvested just under two points a game. They’ve scored in all but one of their games and are top of the goals per game table.
They move the ball slickly, aided by a lot of clever movement off the ball. They work in units, pressing high up the field one moment but getting numbers back in their own territory the next. They have a no-stars work ethic. And, sure enough, after we’d more than matched them for 18 minutes, they scored the first goal, as they have done in 80 per cent of their home matches.
We hit back to equalise. But then Johnny Howson was sent off and Ryan Bennett, who had come on as a sub, pulled up with a hamstring strain during a Bournemouth attack. There were no more defenders on the bench.
There appeared to be a lot of confusion about how we should reorganise. Alex Neil was in the technical area, but Phelan, Three Lungs and goal-keeping coach Tony Parks were giving instructions too and Russ Martin, the skipper, made at least two return trips to the side of the pitch for clarification.
Oh Lord! I turned to my brother-in-law (a late sub for my wife, who had a flimsy alibi of having to work). We agreed that if City could somehow cling on for a point it would be a miracle.
Pah! Alex Tettey went to right back, Martin moved back to the central position he had only recently vacated for Bennett. Steady Eddie Gary O’Neill came on for Bennett and, of course, stationed himself in a midfield which was, not so predictably, reinforced by Cameron Jerome. Gary Hooper braced himself for a loan sojourn in attack.
Then, with what turned out to be 16 long minutes still to go, Nathan Redmond was replaced by Kyle Lafferty (who was presumably instructed to play responsibly for once and not get himself booked or worse).
As Jerome told the club’s official video team, the plan was to cling on to the point. The only attacking intent was to sneak forward occasionally to give the defence a breather and perhaps force a corner.
But, as he demonstrated at Brentford much earlier in the season, Jerome has a skill which no Norwich central forward has owned for several yonks: the ability to make room for himself and let loose an accurate, devastating shot from outside the area.
Bang. 1-2! Who knew my brother-in-law could make so much noise?
So, what will the new Neil have learned from an epic, extraordinarily well-structured, remarkably resilient and quality-packed performance?
He’ll have gleaned that his favoured 4-1-4-1 might not be the best system for us. Hooper was outstanding operating just behind Jerome when we had 11 on the pitch.
Neil must have noted how the goal we conceded was alarmingly straight forward. Steven Whittaker couldn’t prevent his man from dispatching a decent but unremarkable cross from the right. Martin Olsson, who had shuffled across to the middle, jumped under the ball. Matt Richie cut in front of Bradley Johnson to score with a first-time shot.
Our new manager will also have recorded that when Redmond isn’t on his game his attacking play can be predictable and blunt and his defensive contributions often include poor covering and wayward distribution.
So, there’s work to be done. It’s possible that there are reinforcements to be hurried into the squad in the next few weeks.
Yet Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said something important when he did a job on Norwich at Carrow Road in August, and repeated it after we’d done a better job on his team at his place: the City squad has more quality than is the norm for the Championship.
What have we learned about Neil? Well, the board are obviously trying to recreate one aspect of what we had with Paul Lambert: a young, hungry, ambitious manager for whom Norwich City represent a tremendous opportunity and not just another entry on a long CV.
We have seen that Neil is a good communicator, who does not um and er. He definitely has an impressive aura of confidence and purpose.
And Neil will have learned a lot about us, the Norwich fans.
Hamilton Accies have an average home attendance of 2,688. That’s what we take to a routine away game. We had 10,000 for an under-21 game on Friday night, sold out our 1,200 allocation at Bournemouth so quickly that many regular travellers to away games were angered. And, what Neil must have noted, is that if we are given any encouragement at all by events on the pitch, our fans can roar for almost every second of 90 minutes.
It was magnificent and life-affirming to be part of the yelling Yellows and to witness an achievement which has warned the teams above us. It was why I go to football: for catharsis, for release, for being engulfed in spontaneous, collective, uncontrolled, jibbering joy.
Twenty-one games. So much to play for. Everything to play for. Four of the teams above us have to come to Carrow Road.
As someone once said: Come on! Let’s be having you.