We sang: “Oh Sammy Clingan, it could have been you…” during the promotion party which masqueraded as the last home game of the season.
Now, as Paul Lambert forges his squad for the Premier League, Clingan’s role in a tale of two cities is instructive.
On the opening day of the 2008-09 season, Norwich lost 2-0 at Coventry in a match which provided competitive debuts for two midfielders (Clingan and a lively little chap called Wes Hoolahan), two strikers (Arturo Lupoli and Omar Koroma) and a couple of centre-backs (John Kennedy and Dejan Stefanovic).
Kennedy, on loan from Celtic and a few days short of his 25th birthday, was feeling his way back after two years out with a knee injury, yet looked capable of fulfilling the potential everyone in Scotland believed he possessed.
Stefanovic, for whom Fulham had paid Portsmouth £1 million only a year earlier, was a no-nonsense centre-half of the old school who could play a bit. But he was 33.
And 12 games into his Norwich career Stefanović ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments. That career was over, at Norwich and everywhere else.
Kennedy crocked his ankle and while trying to recover from that injury, damaged his dodgy knee again. He returned to Celtic, but his career was finished as well.
Lupoli, an Italian groomed by Arsenal and developed by Fiorentina, had everything you could wish for in a striker. Except goals.
Koroma made only two starts for Norwich. Opponents never knew what he was going to do, but neither did team-mates and nor did he.
In the May, City were relegated to League One – and Clingan left to join Coventry because he did not want to leave the Championship.
So, as we look back at the games against Coventry in August 2008 and May 2011, the story of our club is told by Clingan’s part in it.
Nobody doubted that by leaving Norwich he was helping his career, yet he’s still at Coventry, and now our City are leaving the Championship in the other direction.
Clingan’s mis-adventure also illustrate the hit and miss nature of pre-season recruitment.
In the summer of 2008, the board asked Glenn Roeder how much he needed to build a competitive team and then set about finding the money he asked for. He constructed a robust defence that was wrecked by injury, a decent midfield and a fatally flimsy attack.
Four summers previously, Nigel Worthington had the task of preparing for the Premier League. He followed the conventional wisdom of the time in signing players labelled “quality”, and put some of our older warhorses out to grass.
I spoke to Worthy recently. He was full of praise for Lambert and genuinely full of hope and support for Norwich. But he believes that, if he had been allowed to buy Dean Ashton in the summer instead of in the January, City would have stayed up.
The board, at that time, reasoned differently. They wanted funds in reserve for the January window.
Presumably, similar discussions are taking place now. My day job gives me context for that debate.
I was at Molineux on “Survival Sunday” and antipathy for a club who employed Kevin Muscat was tempered by fondness for Mick McCarthy and admiration for Steve Morgan.
After enduring the excruciating excitement of the game against Blackburn, Wolves’ owner Morgan announced that he would go ahead with plans to demolish and replace one stand in the close season.
Wolves are financing the remodelling of their ground from normal revenue streams, which is entirely commendable. But the stand which is about to be bulldozed houses the club shop, which had signs up saying: “Demolition Sale. All Stock Must Go”.
If Wolves had not survived on that excruciatingly exciting Sunday, Morgan would have needed a very different clearance sale. So, deciding how much to punt on staying up is extraordinarily difficult – and will have formed part of Lambert’s contract negotiations.
As I wrote on this site at the start of the month, our man was never going to join West Ham. But he must have “sought assurances”, as the phrase goes.
He will have wanted to know the fine-line details of chairman Alan Bowkett’s broad-brush promise of a £40 million players’ budget. We must assume he was satisfied with those details.
And so Norwich City have already made the biggest and best signing of the summer.
It is a small claim to fame, and one that others might dispute.
But I shall go to my grave believing that I started the “Nine-two!” chant at Portman Road, going purple-faced to make myself heard above the “Five-one!” others were singing.
On my next visit to Suffolk I am going to jump out of an aeroplane from two miles up to raise money for the Norwich Community Sports Foundation.
Because of my great age, I need an MOT before I get the go-ahead. Then there will be an opportunity for those among the Yellow Army who don’t like me to leave abusive messages on my sponsorship page.
It is for a belting good cause.
Unlike our team, I am going down.