Now what? What happens next, after a campaign with so many once-in-a-lifetime days?
What follows after a season which we shall remember until our last breaths?
I can tell you what won’t happen. Paul Lambert won’t leave for West Ham.
And we won’t receive a postal order of £90 million in next week’s post.
Let’s deal with those two non-happenings in detail. West Ham do want Lambert.
But, leaving aside many other considerations, the London club’s chairmen, the Davids Sullivan and Gold, are not the sort of employers for whom he could work. I know and like Sullivan, but he relishes all the wheeling and dealing of transfer shenanigans and mostly signs players involved with Barry Silkman’s agency.
West Ham managers have no say in the signings, and Sullivan has a record of buying players like Mido and Benni McCarthy. Those two are big examples why Lambert would hate Sullivan’s acquisitions policy. And I do mean big.
Compare and contrast with Lambert’s credo. He likes players with a point to prove: wannabes, not hasbeens; hungry men, not players who are too well-fed to move, let alone care.
Now, that slab of money that’s coming.
In Saturday’s Pinkun, Chris Lakey wrote: “Promotion to the top flight nowadays is estimated to be worth around £90 million – and that’s just for a team that finishes bottom of the league in its first season.”
True, but… The only money City are guaranteed to receive next season is, as near as damn it, £40 million. That is the amount that the club finishing bottom is paid in “merit money” and payments from broadcasting rights.
But it arrives in scheduled tranches during the course of the season. If we go down – I think we might not (more of that later) – then we get parachute payments of £16m a year for four years (£48m).
But if we were to be relegated owing substantial sums to other clubs, then the Premier League could deduct those amounts from our parachute payments (as they did with Portsmouth).
And again, the parachute payments come in instalments and not in one helpful lump. So City receive“only” £40 million next season: the amount chairman Alan Bowkett said at the player of the year dinner would be available to Lambert “for players”.
Some clarification is needed with that pledge as well. Some of City’s new-found wealth is spoken for because some debts became repayable on promotion to the Premier League.
Andrew and Sharon Turner’s £2 million loan will probably have to be repaid asap.
Delia, Michael and Michael Foulger also have loans repayable on promotion to the Premier League. My understanding is that they are NOT seeking repayment.
My nagging worry was that some of the bigger loans, to the banks and to AXA, would also fall due upon promotion. That is not the case.
I don’t doubt that chairman Bowkett in paying off the Turners and some relatively small amounts of the big debts will be able to do that from other revenue streams that will increase in the Premier League.
And he will also be making the unassailable point to the banks that the best way forward for everyone is for City to try to stay in the Premier League.
We don’t want to be getting £16 million a year parachute payments. We want £40 million-plus a year fees for not going down, thank you.
And so Lambert will, indeed, be handed that £40 million ‘war chest’.
But he can’t spend it on eight £5 million players. The £40 million has to cover wages and bonuses for the entire squad. That was one of the fallacies of Callum-gate: that you could splurge a sum on transfers without considering the remuneration of those players.
So, what happens next? Our manager will stay and gather together some more hungry young wannabes to complement the host of heroes who have achieved so much.
Our manager will build a squad who will scrap for every Premier League point. Our manager and our team will have days when the resources of opponents overwhelm them.
But no manager I have met or observed closely is better able to get their heads right to deal with occasions like that.
The fact that Lambert’s City have never suffered back-to-back defeats is not a statistical anomaly or a happy co-incidence. And all those last-gasp goals were not a fluke or a freak.
Lambert’s City bounce back from reverses and don’t know when they are beaten because of sort of players he signs and the positive changes he makes when a win is still possible.
That’s why I won’t buy any of the T-shirts and other mementoes saying “Premier League 2010-2011”.
Before the Coventry match I bought a couple of 9-2 mugs to commemorate making mugs of the Town, but I didn’t want Premier League souvenirs with a finite date on, because I think Lambert’s City have a realistic chance of an extended sojourn in the top division.
But before my final opinion about what happens next, I need to take you back to our club’s lowest ebb for very nearly half a century.
You will all have your own, individual recollections of that 7-1 record home defeat on the opening day of our season in the third tier. Mine involve being abused by fans outside afterwards, because I am guilty of the ‘crime’ of supporting the owners of our club.
At the time, it made me angry. My wife did not deserve to be treated like that, and we were hurting just as much as the fans screaming and swearing at us.
But that was the key element. We were all hurting. I understand that, and acknowledge that some always feel the need to protest when they are aching inside. They don’t have columns and broadcasting opportunities or any other way of expressing their distress.
So I accept I am fortunate and, since I make a living out of expressing opinions, I have to be prepared to listen to opinions about me.
Two days later, my wife and I attended the AGM of the Capital Canaries: the London supporters’ club. We’ve been members since we moved from Norfolk to Hertfordshire in 1978 but rarely go to meetings.
We felt we had to go that night because Delia and Michael were due to attend and feared they might be walking into a bear-pit. They have shown great personal kindness to me and we wanted to support them.
In the event, all the Caps were as decent as I should have expected. There was strong feeling and there were pointed questions, but D & M were treated with courtesy.
The following day, I got up at 4am so that I could finish a writing assignment in time to drive to Yeovil for City’s Carling Cup tie. My wife used some of her leave entitlement to finish work early.
And, there, in Somerset, behind the away end at Huish Park, a remarkable and moving thing happened. A car-park 254.2 miles from Carrow Road began to fill with vehicles carrying City fans.
The Yellow Army was assembling.
There was a gallows humour, certainly. They were bowed but not broken. There was a steadfast determination to support Norwich City, no matter what. Later that night, in the bedroom of a cheap hotel, I discovered that some keyboard warriors who had not made the trip were still abusing me.
I have paid to watch Norwich home and away whenever my work allows for longer than most of my critics have been born, but, truly, I didn’t care.
Because those two days in August 2009 made me as proud of my club and the folk involved with it as I have ever been. No other owners anywhere on Planet Football would have done what Delia and Michael did on Monday 10 August 2009: honour a promise to face supporters after the crushing despair of relegation and the desperate desolation of that home defeat.
And I cannot believe any other set of fans would have turned out in such numbers for a Carling Cup tie the other end of the country despite the wretchedness we all felt.
Those two assets – committed owners and loyal fans – are beyond price.
And so those of us who were at Charlton on Sunday 3 May 2009, and at Carrow Road on Saturday 8 August 2009 were utterly entitled to go mental at Fratton Park on Monday 2 May 2011.
The morning after Pompey, I had a dawn flight to Barcelona, where I had to feign interest in the Champions League semi-final.
At the Camp Nou, I took my seat next to the Telegraph’s Henry Winter in the media gantry and he said: “Mick, I will let you talk about Norwich for five minutes but then you have to stop.”
I said: “I am sorry, but I shall never stop talking about what I have witnessed this week and this season.”
And I explained to Henry that it was a damn close thing. Relegation to the third tier nearly killed Norwich City. But promotion to the Premier League has ensured that the doubts are over and the debts are manageable.
So, what happens next?
There will be more adventures. There will be more downs, certainly. There will be more ups, definitely. But what will happen next is that the club we all care about will survive. Now we know that is certain.
Now excuse me, but I need to go mental again…