A new season; new hopes and new dreams; new bones to chew over.
As Stan made his way to Norwich station yesterday afternoon, he felt good. He walked his usual route, picked up an early chip shop supper from Massingham's (best in the country since 1978), necked a swift pint at the Jubilee while checking what 'potential signings' the Evening News had plucked out of the ether (my mate's mum said she saw Tom Huddlestone having a burger on the market, a source close to the club said), and then met his travelling companions for the long haul to Gorleston.
Football is glamour; glamour is football … that's why we love it. And it is always darkest before the dawn.
Of course, reality kicked in when Stan remembered that this would be one of those friendlies played at half-pace, in which half-time meant 'all-change', and that last year he was briefly deceived by the flowing football displayed against Lowestoft by Granty's finest. And so it was similar again.
This year, the new names and faces were more of the 'He looks about 12…' variety, but City strolled through a comfortable work-out, netting eight, blooding a few Academy boys and offering low-key debuts to our much needed reinforcements. More ominously, we let in the now obligatory goal that will forever haunt us until a new centre-back signs for the club. 8-1; job done; off we go to Sweden.
So what did Stan learn from it all? Well, here are five observations to send us whistling into next season's wind:
1) Stan's most important refection is this: Wes Hoolahan looked great. Quick feet and a quick mind, always in the game, won a penalty and scored a goal. True, we are talking Gorleston in a pre-season friendly, but he stood out from the rest by a country mile.
Indeed, Stan thought he looked best when he dropped into the middle of the pitch, playing the through balls, picking out the runs and spreading it wide with Crook-like ease. Just imagine, Stan's mate 'Chinna' Smith said, if we had Hucks in there to play off him. And then we wept.
2) Our new fitness chap, Alan Pearson, is massive. Big white trainers, chunky thighs, looks like he likes a pint or two. In short, more rugby than football. This, initially, caused Stan and his pals much mirth.
On reflection, however, perhaps our fragile little darlings need a bit of the rugger-bugger treatment. The Academy boys looked very small, as indeed did the whole of our squad bar Marshall and Shacks. If we are to be anything more than cannon-fodder next season, then blood, guts and muscle will be needed. Mr Pearson, Stan salutes you …
3) Who looked sharp and who did not? Well, Doc and Rusty had new haircuts. Very trim; very smart. Patty looked like he was carrying an extra pound or two, and not of the bling variety.
Shacks looked liked he'd grown two inches and was the one voice you heard directing and cajoling his comrades-in-arms. Chris Martin, meanwhile, did his habitual pre-season star-turn with two goals and a stand-out first half performance. He looked keen and eager, but his tendency to stand still for much of the game may well raise Roeder's heckles more than his hopes.
He has the talent and, it seems, the opportunity as the squad stands. Stan hopes he takes it.
4) Stan also developed a theory last night: he worked out where the money goes. For some time, deep in the heart of Colney, test-tubes have been bubbling, men in white coats have been experimenting, and machines with lots of levers and switches have been aglow. The mission: to clone Norwich versions of Bertrand and Gibbs.
Last month obviously brought success, meaning that a hatful of young players, all of them the same build and style as messers Bertrand and Gibbs (tidy, technically competent, slight but quick, lanky and lithe), now make up much of our rising talent. Ironically, however, the youngster who stood out most for Stan was Manny Richardson – a small but evidently talented striker who linked up well with King Wes and scored a deftly taken penalty.
5) Finally, did Stan observe the dawning of a new era? Not really, if truth be told. The same old problems remain.
We looked wobbly at the back in the first-half: Doc and Spillane does not a happy partnership make, while poor old Lappin looked a man on his way out. Up front, we missed far more chances than we scored.
As the season closes in, real money needs to be spent. Two centre-backs and two strikers are essential at the very least. A right-back would be nice. Until the holes are filled with talent rather than putty, things will be tough.
Mr and Mrs Turner, show us the money …