If there was a rock upon which a successful Championship season might be founded, then you can't help but wonder whether or not Dejan Stefanovic will prove to be the corner-stone for all that follows.
Signed from Fulham this summer, the 33-year-old former Fratton Park favourite will take his place in the heart of a new-look Norwich rearguard; upon him will the Sky Blue waves hopefully break as the Canaries kick-off the 2008-2009 season away at Coventry City with 2,000-plus supporters in tow.
“We've had a tough pre-season and now we're looking for a proper game,” said the surely-spoken Serb.
“It's going to be a tough game tomorrow, but we're looking forward.”
City boss Glenn Roeder has already heaped much praise Stefanovic's way – in particular, the calm and assured manner in which he will look to clear City's lines. In the sense that he will look to play the ball into feet – ahead of heaving it into Row Z at the Ricoh.
He is, said Roeder today, a different beast to Dion Dublin; the latter filled any dressing room with his laughter and presence. Stefanovic is, by contrast, quieter; more brooding. But no less of a force and an influence for it.
He was nigh-on revered by the Pompey faithful as Harry Redknapp once again proved that he knows not just a player, but a character.
It is no real slur on Stefanovic's playing abilities to lose your place on the South Coast to Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin.
Back in the Championship for the first time in his English playing career, Stefanovic has been round the block long enough to know a decent young player or two as Roeder looks to bring a dozen new faces to bear on the Premiership promotion race.
“There is a good squad here, but I think we are going to need a little bit of time to gel in,” said Stefanovic. “We've got ten, 11 new players, but we're going to be OK – we've got a good squad, a good manager and we're going to be OK.”
The Canaries do look a far stronger and more balanced unit than they have done since they were relegated from the Premiership. The proof – as ever – will be in the pudding, but on paper the squad looks good enough to have a chance of being there or thereabouts play-off wise.
As ever, luck will need to hold and minus that big target man, the Canaries are still pretty lightweight in attack.
A good start could keep the pot bubbling nicely – ready for 6ft 2in Johnny X to cme to City's physical rescue.
“It is always important to start well,” said Stefanovic. “Especially the first couple of games of the season, but it is going to be a long season.
“But as you saw last season, Bristol City did very well; almost got promoted to the Premiership, so we've got a chance.”
There wasn't, he suggested, one stand-out side out there; there will be very little between the best and the worst in this year's Championship struggle – just as there was last year.
“There are probably ten clubs that are going to be contenders to be promoted to the Premiership and we are one of them and we're looking forward to it, to be honest with you.”
With a new-look strike force of Clinton Morrison and Freddie Eastwood awaiting, it is one of those awkward little away starts that greets the Canaries tomorrow. Another one follows on Tuesday night with that Carling Cup first round trip to the MK Dons.
“I played against them when they were in the Premiership and it's a tough place to go there, but we're looking forward to it,” said Stefanovic, determined that Norwich's woeful record on the road of late ends this summer.
“Maybe this season we're going to change – as I said, we've got good players here; we've trained well for the last six weeks; we're fully fit and when we go there, we go there to take all three points.”
Stefanovic will, in every likelihood, be joined by on-loan Celtic star John Kennedy at the heart of that defence; with Gary Doherty on the long-term injured list and Spurs youngster Troy Archibald-Henville only just in the building the Kennedy-Stefanovic partnership looks set to have a few games in them before Roeder whistles up, say, Jason Shackell.
“I think we need a little bitof time to get to know eachother, buthe is a good player; he has been injured for a couple of months but I'm looking forward to playing with the new players here. Everyone is very positive at the moment.”
As for the secret of success in this division, well, that wasn't much of a secret. Consistency is the name of the Championship game.
“Yes, that's the big secret – I've never played in the First Division [Championship]; I play nine years in the Premiership – so this is going to be a new challenge for me now. But consistency is very important – we got that and we're going to be OK.”