Looking back, most of us were guilty of over-excitement in the aftermath of Saturday’s thrilling win at the Goldsands Stadium.
The adrenalin-fuelled nature of victory sent even the most pragmatic City supporter a little giddy. From staring down the barrel to three points in the space of 27 glorious minutes. It was great.
And there is no disguising the potential importance of the win. With Ipswich also tasting defeat the top eight are now separated by just eight points with 21 games to go; a challenging but not insurmountable total.
Quite how much impact Alex Neil had on proceedings is known only to those in the inner sanctum but his performance on the touchline in that final half-hour smacked of one with fire in the belly.
But it was difficult not to feel a pang of sympathy for Messrs Phelan and Holt. The task of preparing the team in the midst of the furore that surrounded Neil’s appoinment was not an enviable one, but they did so to good effect and no-one could have foretold the level of Chris Foy’s desperation to be the centre of attention.
In truth the first hour was a very typical City 2014-type performance and the remnants of Team Adams will, I suspect, have sat watching from the bench with an alarming sense of déjà vu. But it all changed in the crunch of one Jonny Howson challenge.
Whether the change in the players’ demeanour was the result of a sense of injustice, some wise words from the new manager, a tactical shift borne of the old guard or a response to the raucous Yellow Army (or a mixture of all four) is an unknown but, almost for the first time this season, they displayed heart and desire on a scale befitting a team with Premier League ambitions.
And it’s that, as opposed to any tactical shifts to 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 or 0-0-10, that is Neil’s most pressing task.
In Championship terms the squad put together by Neil Adams possesses technical ability right up there with the best in the division. No question. But to be the much fabled ‘best squad in the league’ – as alluded to by Eddie Howe – they also need to display a hunger and work-rate to match. And over 25 games we have seen too little of both.
Whether said qualities can be instilled in a player is a difficult one – some would argue they come from within and therefore cannot be – but that’s the challenge facing our new Neil.
At Hamilton Academicals those particular characteristics were in plentiful supply, both on and off the pitch. For a town only a smidgen smaller than Lowestoft to produce a team that successfully goes toe-to-toe with Scottish football’s big boys is a sure-fire way of inducing said fire in the belly. At Norwich the equation is different. Chalk and cheese.
But the initial signs are promising. Neil’s early performances in front of the microphone and on the touchline indicate we have acquired ourselves one who is comfortable in his own skin.
He admitted as much in a recent interview: “I’m a very secure person, I have very few insecurities in terms of confidence, speaking to a group and putting my message across.
“I don’t mind demanding the most out of them or booting someone up the backside if I feel they aren’t pulling their weight. All these sides to the job don’t really bother me. It’s something that comes naturally.”
These quotes, which have been doing the rounds in the six days since his appointment, offer a telling insight into the mind of Neil. He sounds unlikely to suffer fools and he’s even less likely to be fazed by managing players who have more impressive footballing CVs and fatter wallets than him. And that has to be a good thing.
But for him to inspire a 21 game run-in that ends in promotion – either automatically or via the play-offs – will at the very least require those wearing the yellow shirts to hang on his every word, just like those young lads at the Accies. It will also need them to take his ethos on board, and quickly. No time for experiments. No time for slow learners.
Only time will tell of any of the above are possible but Saturday will at least offer us the first clues as to how, from a tactical perspective, he intends to go about it. At Hamilton he preferred a 4-1-4-1 formation but will he feel it too late in the day to go with the same shape here?
Saturday’s starting XI and its formation will be fascinating and telling, even if the loss of Howson for three games will have come as a bitter blow. Will he persevere with the Russell Martin at centre-back and Steven Whittaker at right-back ‘experiment’? Will he look to play one midfield ‘holder’? Will he want to accommodate the trickery of Wes?
All questions that will be answered at around 2pm on Saturday.
And I can’t wait.
“Never mind the danger…”