So, the play-offs. What do we reckon? Still in with a chance?
Seven points and six places adrift of the last play-off spot ? and only 12 games left in which to close the gap. It seems unlikely? but as older readers will know, there is something of a precedent.
Gather round the rocking chair while I light my pipe, young folk, for I have a remarkable tale to tell. I was going to save it for my grand-children, but as my memory will be long gone by the time they make an appearance, I'll tell you instead.
The year is 1982, and the world is different in many ways. I still have hair, ideals and ? as a second-year student at Cambridge ? the notion that I may be an intellectual. Yeah, I know?
In many people's eyes, being a football supporter means you are at best mindless and at worst a hooligan. Wearing a City scarf instead of a college scarf to lectures attracts numerous sideways glances, and my History of the French Language supervisor actually declares that she cannot understand how someone mad about football can write such good essays. (I took that as a compliment rather than being offended.)
There's no Internet, text messaging or 24-hour sports news channels, so trying to keep up with the latest news from Carrow Road and Trowse is indeed trying; only regular Red Cross parcels of Evening News sports pages sent by my Mum let me know what's been going on between games.
And finding out the scores of mid-week away games is a hit-and-miss affair, depending on whether you manage to catch the sole reading of the results at around 10pm on Radio 2. (I remember a proposal that the college should cancel its daily subscription to the Morning Star being opposed by a couple of northern lads ? not because they were hard-line Commies, but because it was the only paper which carried all the rugby league results.)
One thing is the same as today, though ? with only 12 games of the season left, City are halfway down the league. And if anything, promotion looks even less likely than it does in 2008 since the play-offs haven't been invented yet; a top three finish is required.
The team's form is patchier too. There's been no 13-match unbeaten run; the team has as much trouble stringing together a few results as I will have 25 years later in stringing together a few words of French. Even the return of Martin O'Neill has failed to bring consistency to the side. Like an old car on a cold day, it bursts into life now and then but promptly splutters, phuts and conks out again.
Saturday 20th March 1982 is a big, big day. For one thing, it's my 21st birthday. But perhaps more importantly, it is what Roget might describe as definitely, absolutely, categorically and unequivocally City's last chance to mount a push for promotion. A disappointing mid-week draw at lowly Orient means we have to win at Bolton.
A 1-0 victory means I can really go out and celebrate. I end up in Tudor Hall (Rose Lane's premier nightspot) having a surreal debate with a drunken Scotsman about car parks. That, I decide, is the last time I ever get hammered. And as it turns out, it is.
The following Saturday we beat Cardiff 2-1. The Friday after that, Argentine forces invade the Falkland Islands, but I'm more concerned about the next day's game at Cambridge. It isn't pretty, but we win 2-1. The Saturday after, Charlton are comprehensively stuffed 5-0. Promotion is definitely still on.
Defeat at Luton (not as bad as it sounds, given that they go on to be champions) introduces some doubt, but three 2-0 wins in a row combined with the apparent determination of the teams above us to chuck points away keeps the hope alive.
Actually, it's more than hope by this stage; I'm almost beside myself with excitement. Even though I may be an intellectual, I'm finding it hard to concentrate on my studies. Exams are looming? and so is a potential problem. The final game of the season ? Sheffield Wednesday away ? is just two days before the first exam.
I resolve to go up to Hillsborough if we can still go up to Division One. This is still a big 'if', since the next game is away at Leicester, who are also aiming for third place. It's a considerably smaller 'if' after we take them apart with a stunning display and win 4-1.
Two more wins follow ? that's 10 out of 11, if you've lost count ? and victory at Hillsborough will now guarantee promotion. So, do I stick to my word and go to the game?
Well, um, you see, the thing is, er? no, I don't. Rightly or wrongly, while thousands of City fans hit the road to Sheffield, I hit the books.
I say 'rightly or wrongly', because to this day I don't know whether I did the right thing. I missed out on a glorious day at Hillsborough; we won promotion despite losing 2-1 because Leicester only drew at Shrewsbury. But on the other hand, I got a first and a final-year scholarship.
Arguably that exam result did me more harm than good in that my failure to repeat it the following year was harder to take. And I can't now remember anything of what I studied; my abiding memory of that period of 1982 is the euphoria of the promotion surge. But I still can't say for certain that I should have gone to the game.
Funnily enough, our final match this season is again Sheffield Wednesday away. And once again a potential problem is looming.
That weekend, the whole of my wife's family is having a get-together near Stratford to celebrate her parents' golden wedding anniversary. If City are still in with a chance of making the play-offs, what should I do?
Don't worry, I know the answer to that one.
Not sure how my wife's going to take it, though…
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