All rather fun isn’t it? After an incredible start to Alex Neil’s Norwich career, we are now firmly in the midst of the business end to this Championship season and it is a particularly frenetic, fast and exciting occasion for eight sets of supporters.
After another win on Easter Monday against Sheffield Wednesday (who had great away support by the way), the Canaries are back in the automatic promotion spots for the first time in what seems like an eternity.
Most supporters struggled with taking a long-term view of our prospects during the winter. This was especially evident after getting thumped 4-0 on that cold November night by Middlesbrough – a side now looking shaky in the final weeks. Therefore, in my best Kevin Keegan impression, they have to come to us next Friday night and get something, and honestly, I will love it if we beat them.
It would be sweet personal revenge for being one of the 540-odd who were at the Riverside that’s for sure. It may even take us a step closer to the Championship title but who on earth really knows; such is the nature of this crazy campaign.
It is funny how things turn out though, and my point here is I’d much rather be taking the odd hiding away from home in the winter when there is time to make up ground, as opposed to imploding in the final clutch of games like so many have done before and a few are doing again this year.
A happy Easter to Ipswich by the way.
We have timed our own surge to the top to near perfection, and it has to be said this is far more exhilarating than merely surviving in the top flight. But more on that later.
In fact, we are heading towards May 2nd at breakneck speed and I honestly cannot see where the slip-up is coming from for this City side.
Granted, the Bolton and Leeds away games in the next seven days are by no means straightforward. Both scored three yesterday and as the enlightened Radio Norfolk caller pointed out, the in-form Eidur Gudjohnsen will be looking to ‘shoot us down’, whatever that means. I think he meant the Icelandic legend may score another goal or two and knock us off our perch.
But this squad under this manager doesn’t strike me as the sort which will buckle under the pressure. There seems to be an unwavering calm confidence around the place and in truth it is there for good reason.
Who else in this league could afford to have the likes of Gary Hooper and Nathan Redmond on the bench? I would say none. Even among the ‘regular’ subs, Declan Rudd is another promising England youth international who would get games elsewhere in this division and Carlos Cuellar has years of top flight experience.
Quite simply, we have the strength in numbers and it was this depth of quality that had me convinced we were heading in the right direction all season.
Even if we do end up missing out on automatic promotion and enter into the play-offs, it has still been a magnificent run in 2015 and I wouldn’t bet against Alex Neil squeezing in one last ‘wee chat’ to conjure up a magnificent Wembley occasion.
It’s okay, we can talk about these things now – it is only five games to go after all!
Earlier on in this piece I alluded to Championship tomfoolery being more satisfying than meandering around the lower reaches of the Premier League. It is a notion I am uncomfortable with as I firmly believe a club should always aspire to be the absolute best it can be, and not revel in being anything less.
Swansea, Southampton and Hull are all good examples of this and if they can get to cup finals and into European football, then why not us?
Driving down the Acle straight on the way to Carrow Road yesterday, my family were discussing the permutations and how tight the table is looking, and it struck me if we do indeed go up we will have nothing of this next season. It would be enjoyable, but it won’t quite be the same as the chase to get there in the first place.
But the tidal wave of dirty cash from the TV deals and beefed-up parachute payments means that even one dismal year in the top flight would see Norwich have considerable buying power, especially considering we are already completely debt-free.
Someone even said to me they wouldn’t mind us becoming a yo-yo club for three or four years as it would do more good than harm, and I found it hard to argue this point bearing in mind promotion is expected to be valued at £150 million.
The worst case scenario now is that we have a re-run of 2002 and get cruelly dumped out of the play-off lottery. Although the penalty shoot-out defeat at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff still rankles, I look back on that season with some great memories and, to be honest, it proves to me that this league is almost too good to go up from.