City boss Glenn Roeder hailed this season's 'Great Escape' as his greatest feat in football management – and dropped the biggest hint yet that talks would, indeed, start with out-of-contract Canary favourite Darren Huckerby.
With Sheffield Wddnesday racking up a 3-1 win away at Leicester City, Norwich's 3-0 romp against a ten-man Queen's Park Rangers duly ensured that the hapless Foxes can now not catch the Norfolk side.
Defeat for Southampton away at champions-elect West Bromwich Albion would add another club to those mathematically certain to finish beneath the Canaries – defeat for the Saints would also ensure that, given the South Coast side's poorer goal difference, Wednesday would only need a point to beat the drop when they entertain Norwich in the final game of the season at Hillsborough next Sunday.
In between and a delighted Roeder suggested it may well be time for a little party – the club stages it's annual open day later today, before hosting the 'Player of the Season' dinner at Carrow Road on Monday night with the latest recipient, Dion Dublin, due to be sat on top table after the 39-year-old bid an emotional farewell to the home faithful yesterday as a Sky Sports sofa awaits.
“I just think it's a brilliant day for anyone associated with Norwich City Football Club,” said the Canary boss, after finally ensuring that the city of Norwich would play host to Championship football again next August.
Given that they were dead and buried as late as the second weekend in November with that wretched 3-0 away defeat at Plymouth Argyle, it remains a remarkable feat of management to get the Canaries across the finishing line with a week to spare – and with eight clubs now beneath them in the table.
Ched Evans – one of Roeder's pivotal loan signings – got the party going with a sweeping, seventh minute volley. Ex-City loan defender Zesh Rehman carried on where he left off in a Canary shirt by diverting Mark Fotheringham's 56th minute low drive beyond a stranded Lee Camp with substitute Darel Russell sealing the success with a well-controlled, 35-yard lob after Camp had gone walkabout.
Camp – another of Rangers' ex-City loan players – should have walked as early as the fourth minute after flattening Evans as the teenager slipped in between the Rangers keeper and centre-half Damion Stewart. The latter, however, was adjudged to have been the guilty party by an all-too often clueless official and left the visitors to play the greater part of the contest a man-down.
For once, the Canaries took full advantage and handed all the space they would ever need ripped into Rangers with purpose and passion – all to the gleeful delight of the club's biggest home crowd of the season. Had they lost and this weekend's various celebrations would have been more a wake than a party. Victory and it was big smiles all round as the players made their traditional, farewell lap around Carrow Road at the final whistle – a big, big job done.
“We don't want to be celebrating like we have done – and probably will do for a couple of days – because we've stayed up in the Championship,” said Roeder afterwards.
“But such was the position that we found ourselves in in the first week in November, it's only right I think that the supporters, the players and everyone at Norwich City does celebrate for a couple of days.”
It was, he vowed, only the start. This was just the first box ticked – keeping Norwich up. Now to tick the next box and get them out of this division by the right exit door.
“This is only the first part of our goal – and that was to make sure that we were playing Championship football next year. Which we are going to.”
Quizzed as to how highly he rated this achievement compared to the way in which he took both Newcastle United and West Ham United out of the doldrums and into the top seven of the Premiership – and, indeed, gave the long-suffering Toon Army another helping of European football – and Roeder responded with one, simple question.
“You tell me the last team that had eight points in November and stayed up?” he said. They are, of course, few and far between. He was, however, not about to claim all the credit – first team coach Paul Stephenson and Roeder's No2, Lee Clark also now have the 'Norwich City Survival Campaign, 2007-2008' medal pinned to their chests.
“I couldn't have done it without the back-room staff – I've inherited some good backroom staff and the two lads I brought in with me from the North-East [Clark and Stephenson] have been fantastic.
“I couldn't have worked as easily as I have been able to work without Lee and Paul Stephenson. I've been able to delegate more than I've ever done as a manager before because of the quality of those two people.”
But overall, that achievement? “Yes – probably the best,” he said.”I've been fortunate to have some very good days in football – and I've had some poor days in football.
“And this is probably the nicest result I've had and I just hope that what I said after that defeat at Plymouth will, over a period of time, end up being the truth – that this is going to be the toughest job I've ever had, but I think in the end I think it's going to be the best job that I've ever had.”
As both Dublin and Huckerby together made their way around Carrow Road at the final whistle, so both Barclay and Snake Pit together made their opinions known re Huckerby's contract position – that the City boss must 'Sign him up, sign him up…'
As he proved once more with his team selection for yesterday's game – keeping both the Player of the Season Dublin and his runner-up Russell on the bench – Roeder remains defiantly his own man and will take no-one's advice but his own. That said, the door was clearly open for talks with Huckerby and his agent, Phil Smith, now that Norwich's fate was secure.
“Do you know the only advice I take? My own,” said Roeder, not about to rush into any big, back page headlines before speaking to all the players concerned. For notwithstanding Huckerby's out-of-contract status this summer, both skipper Mark Fotheringham and Gary Doherty have new deals to ponder.
“It would be completely wrong to discuss any player's contract – their future – before I've spoken to the individual player.
“Darren – or any player out of contract – does not want to be reading in the paper and finding out about his future. I would be mortified if that happened to me. And I wouldn't do anything to somebody else that I wouldn't want done to me. So there has to be some respect and dignity shown.”
The implication remained, however, that talks would happen; to see just where each side sat; just what was on offer. Huckerby has, after all, made it clear that he is no hurry to leave Norfolk – quite the reverse. Long-term and the Huckerbys are going to be part of the furniture; short-term and the 32-year-old still sees another couple of years left in the legs.
“There's a few weeks to go now and when we can find time – and I guess his agent will want to come and have a chat – and we will sit down and talk. But I'm not giving any clues away one way or the other.
“You'll have to decide yourself. But be patient. Darren will be the first to know – and then we can talk afterwards…”