To some of my friends who don't support City, I'm like the boy who kept crying 'Wolf' � the only difference being that I keep crying 'relegation'.
�You say the same thing every year around this time,� they say. ('Around this time' meaning around February 2nd, or Groundhog Day, which they also keep bringing up…) �But you never do go down, do you?�
This nonchalant certainty about our safety might be reassuring, except that it's invariably followed by a comment revealing how little they know about us, such as: �That Jerry Goss is a good player � he'll score the goals to keep you up��
I have of course reminded these friends that in the fable, the wolf eventually turns up. Until now, they've taken no notice. But now that we're in the bottom three, perhaps they'll finally accept that we really are in peril.
The seriousness of our situation is now inescapable � even if the situation itself is not, with 13 games still left. Yet strangely, I'm not consumed by fear or anxiety.
I think it's because the worst � being in one of the relegation spots � has now happened; the fear of falling into them is far worse.
When we went to Fulham on that afternoon in May 2005, I was a quivering wreck because we were out of the bottom three at the start of play; I hadn't been when we were well adrift of safety a few weeks earlier.
It's the same during matches. I only get anxious when we're in front, as we have something to lose � and because the Norwich way of protecting a lead has traditionally been to sit ever deeper and invite ever greater pressure. When we go a goal down, there are no nerves.
Then, it's all about getting behind the team and getting back into the game.
Fighting back is what we have to do now. As it stands, we're going down. It's no longer a question of trying to maintain our position; now we have to haul ourselves out of this hole.
As usual, we're hearing brave words from the players; it remains to be seen whether they can follow them up with brave deeds this time, though recent history is hardly encouraging.
All we can do in the stands is make sure that we don't falter. The support has been terrific again this season, and we have to keep it going to the end � if only so that we can say that we did everything we could.
Last season, a Leicester fan ran on to the pitch in one of their last home games and threw away his season ticket; I was delighted at that, as it showed their support was crumbling. Sure enough, they went down.
When things are going badly � and we can reasonably assume that we'll have more of those moments before the end of the season � we mustn't lose it like that.
Because if we do lose it, we're lost.
It will seem a bit odd to see Jason Shackell in a City shirt again this weekend, though I'm not as unhappy about it as some supporters seem to be.
The reason � or perhaps I should say the Grounds � for bringing in another centre-half as quickly as possible are obvious. Shackell has plenty of experience at this level, and the fact that he knows the club so well should help him to settle in all the more quickly.
Is it a good move for him? We've looked at the question of whether it's wise to go back once before, when Jamie Cureton returned. Perhaps we should take some fresh advice from Jeremy Bullmore, the Guardian's agony uncle on careers.
Were it not for the fact that it was published in April 2007, the following question to Mr Bullmore could have been written by Shackell himself:
�After spending 10 years with the same� company, I moved on for all the usual reasons: better prospects elsewhere, higher salary, new challenges and so on. To my surprise, after [a few] months I'm still finding it hard to settle into my new job and I miss my old one.
“I'm� single, and my social life was built around my former colleagues. My old company has since offered me my job back� I've always thought that it was a bad move to go back to something. But, in this case, I'm really tempted to return.�
Here's Jeremy's considered response:
�Reluctance to return to an old job is often based on little more than embarrassment. Your old company gave you a rattling good leaving party, a better present than you had any right to expect and the boss man stood up and said some extremely generous things about you.�
Somehow, I suspect that our former boss man's farewell speech didn't extend beyond two words and seven letters, but let's move on:
�And now, lurking somewhere in the back of your head, is the prospect of a slightly sheepish return. Turning up on that first morning won't be easy. Jokes will be made at your expense, not all of them affectionate� it's still going to seem a bit of a climb-down, a bit of a humiliation.
�Which it is, in a way, but – except in your own mind and perhaps that of your worst enemy – this is a very small failure indeed: a legitimate experiment that didn't come off but valuable lessons learned.
“The great thing is that your old company wants you back. Management will be doubly delighted: they'll be pleased to welcome a face they trust and your return may make other potential defectors think twice. And most of your workmates will be reassured to learn that the grass isn't all that greener after all.�
That last thought is an interesting one. Jason, have a quiet word with Lee, could you?
And finally� following my last column, there were one or two very kind comments on the Wrath of the Barclay messageboard encouraging me to write another book.
The posters concerned will be pleased to hear that research on a new idea is indeed underway. (BerlinCanary, who has described my previous efforts as crap, will be dismayed.)
At this stage, I'd rather not divulge what the idea is. Well, except to say that it's not about football � though in the course of my research I did stumble across some tips on how to treat canaries in the 1888 edition of 'Enquire Within Upon Everything'.
Apparently, 'cleanliness, simple food, and fresh but not cold air, are essential to the well-being of a canary'. Sounds a bit like Colney, I thought.
Fresh grit every day is advised, and I'd go along with that � but feeding on poppy and hemp seeds probably wouldn't go down well with the drug testers.
Unfortunately there was no advice on how to resuscitate your canary if you find it lying near the foot of the table.
Sorry � positive thinking, positive thinking…