And so it starts.
OK, so it doesn't officially start for another four weeks or so. But for those of us who, for professional or personal reasons, find our lives dictated by where Norwich City Football Club are at any moment in time, it all starts again tomorrow. Courtesy of FlyBe, in Exeter – 300-odd miles from home.
Look out of the hotel window now, at a little after six o'clock on a Friday afternoon, and it is a dank, drizzly early evening in Devon with precious little weather-wise to inspire either mind, body or keyboard for the ten, gruelling months ahead.
And yet this summer more than most, you sense hope springing eternal in Canary hearts; that there is rather more by way of optimism floating about the place than has been the case for at least the last two summers past.
And that, in no small part, owes much to events of the last two weeks in which half a new side has arrived at the gates of Colney.
That, in all fairness, is no mean feat. If we work on the basis that Messrs Marshall, Gilks, Cureton, Otsemobor, Brellier and Strihavka have rather more about them than the motley crew that Bryan Hamilton managed to scrape together from the back end of Newcastle United and a few dodgy Dutch videos, it is – by some margin – the biggest and most dramatic overhaul of a Norwich first team squad for many a year.
More than that, when compared to the arrival of Des Hamilton, Garry Brady, Raymond de Waard and Co in that mad March of 2000, you get a definite sense of long-term thinking and best-laid plans coming to fruition of late – as opposed to a swift flick through Rothmans and a quick call to some bloke in a bar in Rotterdam.
Jamie's return is the slight exception; his homecoming was entwined with the whole Billy Sharp saga. But, thereafter, by and large there has clearly been a large degree of forethought and planning gone into this summer's recruitment drive – that, for once, Norwich were dictating transfer events, rather than being dictated to. Again whether those particular transfer wheels were all oiled by the Turners arrival is one for the future. Either that or the never-said expectation that Earnie would jump ship.
Otsemobor was 'outed' ages ago by Dario Gradi as being Norfolk-bound; he duly arrived. His missus didn't haul him off to Preston or wherever. Marshall was always Peter Grant's No1 target keeper-wise. And having ridden on the back of the snarling, verbal tiger that is Willie Mackay, Marshall is here. And all with Matty Gilks breathing down his neck – itching for a game.
Brellier might be a lucky break in the sense that there appeared to be no immediate competition for his signature; if there was, it was out-foxed by either Jim Duffy's persuasive powers or some decisive financial action. Or both.
Ditto Strihavka. Who knows what, exactly, he is about to add to the brew. But there was planning, there was homework, there was target acquisition and acquirement. From a distance; over a long period of time. Again Norwich dictating events; not being dictated to.
Now, I suspect that Strihavka and his representatives have their own agenda in that they've put their boy in the biggest shop window outside the Premiership. Bang outside the Premiership. But that's a win, win as far as Norwich are concerned.
He does everything that Grant says he does on the tin and any quick, strong, 6ft 2in 'unit' that scores goals – and has, say, ten to a dozen by Christmas – will be attracting all sorts of attention. What, exactly, lies in the small print of his four-year deal can wait for another day; for now Norwich are in the driving seat as the lad uses the Norfolk club to drive both his Premiership and Czech international ambitions. He has, in short, every reason to do well. And that can be only to Norwich's benefit.
There is another reason why nigh-on all of this summer's arrivals fit into a spot of longer-term thinking – their ages.
Cureton is clearly the exception at 31. But, by common consent, he is in the best shape of his life. Put it this way, there was a story doing the rounds that the last time Jamie did a pre-season lap around Colney, he was trailing behind a certain B Gunn…
Otherwise, we're looking at 24 and 25-year-olds – players about to come into the prime of their footballing lives. That, too, was something that Grant long ago set his stall out as demanding – that he wanted to shift the age make-up of his squad back nearer to that mid-twenties bracket; with boys that had firmly done their apprenticeship; with players that knew their way around Turf Moor on a dark Tuesday night. He's done that; I've not done the sums, but I'd guess that the likely average age of City's 2007-2008 squad will be far nearer 24 or 25 than 20 or 21 of previous seasons.
What does it all mean? Well, for one thing, even if it now goes all belly up, at least someone, somewhere should take credit for making so much happen in the week before pre-season actually starts; that if the names of five out of the six new arrivals featured on Grant's ideal shopping list last May, for them to all be here, in place, by the middle of July is – in this day and age – a pretty big achievement in itself. Most un-Norwich.
For another, you sense that if nothing else Norwich will be competitive, will have more of a balance and a logic to their first eleven and will have a collection of individuals who, at least in theory, ought to have every incentive to do well – that while many, as individuals, will have one eye on using Norwich as a stepping stone into the Premiership, that in turn can only benefit Norwich as a team.
You get enough boys wanting to do well for themselves – even if it is for their own, naked individual gain – and you can go places together as a team. They want to step forward into the Premiership; they're not resenting the fact that they have been asked to take a step back out of it.
There remains at least one last shirt to fill – that vacant No5 'slot'; that, you suspect, is the last piece in Grant's '07-08 jigsaw.
Bags one of those in on-loan out of the Premiership and, for the first time in a while, the pieces may all actually fit.
I wouldn't shout 'Promotion!' from the roof-tops. Nor, for now, whisper 'Play-offs!' Stick to saying 'Competitive…' And after that watch with interest how Lady Luck plays her hand this autumn.