The 19 days last summer when the Norwich City squad was denuded of its quality seemed bad enough at the time. Now, as the Championship's worst ever season limps to its conclusion, we can see the real cost of those destructive days.
On June 29, Robert Earnshaw completed his move to Derby. On 17 July Dickson Etuhu signed for Sunderland.
Both have spent the months since watching more often than playing as their clubs have struggled at the wrong end of the Premier League, but that should not disguise the damage their departures did to Norwich.
Peter Grant (remember him?) wanted to keep Earnshaw and Etuhu but both had clauses in their contracts stipulating that they could leave if certain specified amounts were bid for them. Without those clauses, neither would have signed for Norwich in the first place.
In Earnie's case, the escape clause was due to lapse and I know that members of the Norwich board hoped it would do so before anyone made the appropriate offer.
Earnie's agent made sure that didn't happen. Surprise, surprise: Derby proffered the precise amount which was necessary to trigger the clause and the ebullient little Welsh striker with the dodgy teeth was on his way.
Etuhu's departure was mourned less stridently by City fans. He had only shown his best form for Norwich fitfully, usually when there were live TV cameras about. But Etuhu had the requisite attributes for central midfield in the Championship.
The dearth of those qualities in the Norwich squad was compounded when Youssef Safri went to Southampton. Then Grant re-stocked the midfield from Scottish football and Norwich were in trouble.
With Etuhu providing power and pace when it suited him and little Earn chasing through balls, Norwich would have been contenders for a play-off place all campaign ? because this season the Championship has been spectacularly poor.
The conventional wisdom among managers in football's second tier has always been that if they could average two points a game (the win at home, draw away formula) they would win promotion.
Averaging two points a game from a 46-match season gives you 92 points. It would have given you second place in the table in the Football League in every one of the 15 seasons since the Premier League broke away.
If you can do a little better than that, you normally win the League. In the glorious 2003-04 season, for example, Norwich surged to the title with 94 points.
I'll pause now, while we all sigh or weep at the memory and at the dismal decline that followed…
Right, if you are ready to read on, let's talk about this season.
Nobody will get remotely close to two points a game. The title will probably be won with fewer than 85 points.
As every pub pundit has worked out, there is no stand-out team and everyone is capable of beating everyone else (or, in City's case at Ashton Gate, capable of deserving to win).
One way of interpreting the mass equality is by saying that our division is “very competitive”. Another is to admit that it is very, very poor.
I've seen a lot of Championship games which have not involved Norwich and been able to gauge the Division more or less dispassionately.
On successive weekends, for instance, I reported Watford against Stoke and then Manchester United against Liverpool. Those fixtures were like watching different sports played by beings from different planets.
At Vicarage Road, Watford, the Press Box is at the back of the oldest stand with the lowest roof. For much of the match, I couldn't see the ball because it was in the sky. Instead, I watched leaden-footed footballers plodding about in a truly shocking game.
At Old Trafford, Manchester, I saw Rooney, Ronaldo, Torres, Gerrard and the rest racing about in a higher gear. Even defenders like Vidic and Aurelio would have won any race against Championship clod-hoppers.
Now think of the transfer policy used by Lawrie Sanchez while he was at Fulham.
He signed men who had thrived in the Championship: Diomansy Kamara (from West Brom), David Healy (from Leeds), Lee Cook (from QPR) and Hameur Bouazza (from Watford).
None of them made a real impact in the Premiership. Fulham struggled. Sanchez lost his job. Now, as Fulham contemplate relegation, their fans say their club “fell off the back of a Lawrie…”
Next, consider the story of Steve Howard. He thumped in 22 goals as Luton won tier three in 2005. He collected 15 for Luton in tier two and then 19 for Derby in tier two as they reached, and won, the play-off final.
This season, with Derby in the Premiership, Howard's archetypal centre-forward style was not good enough. He contributed one, solitary goal in 21 appearances for Derby before they unloaded him to Leicester in the Championship where, as Norwich learned to their cost, he is effective again.
Finally, think about Glenn Roeder's successful use of youngsters on loan from Premiership clubs. The teenagers he has brought in are a long way from the first teams of the clubs to whom they are registered. Some might not make it in the Premiership. Yet nearly all of them have been more than good enough for the Championship. They have revived what was a moribund Carrow Road squad.
I've reached three conclusions, all of which are pretty depressing.
The first is that the Championship has fallen further behind the Premiership.
The second is that, in terms of quality, this has been the worst Championship season of all time.
The third is that City picked a terrible season to have such a wretched campaign.