When you have spent most of your adult working life writing about sport, the danger is that one, well-worn cliché rolls all-too easily into the next.
Particularly when it comes to previewing occasions like tomorrow’s trip to Wembley.
Dreams will come true. Fairy tales will have a happy ending. The list is pretty endless.
But there is something about the Championship Play-Off Final that makes such lines roll off the tongue – or the pen – with that much greater ease. For one simple reason.
Dreams really will come true. Someone really will have a fairy tale ending to their season.
Take two examples from the Middlesbrough end of the equation.
Take Jonathan Woodgate and Patrick Bamford. For one, victory tomorrow will be a fairy tale end to his professional playing career; for the other, it will be a fairy tale start to his professional playing career.
Little more needs to be said or written as to what success would mean for Norwich’s 33-year-old manager; other than to suggest that the word ‘fairy’ might figure large in a sentence with ‘Alex’ and ‘Neil’ attached.
Not something that you would write lightly on any other occasion. But this is the Championship Play-Off Final. Where dreams really do come true.
In part, that does come down to the scale of the prize on offer. To the winner goes £120 million; to the loser a consolation of just £2 million.
To the winner goes the prospect of trips to the Etihad and Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates; to the loser, it is back round the same old provincial block again. Albeit without the ‘bright lights’ of Blackpool.
The point being that winning this one game – to the clubs, the managers, the players and the supporters – means more than any one game they will then come to experience in the subsequent Premier League season.
Wembley and 39,000 of your kith and kin make sure of that. It will be a one-off occasion like no other for a generation of Norwich City supporters.
For whom a trip to Wembley is a dream come true. Far more so than it will be for, say, an Arsenal supporter making another return visit for yet another FA Cup final appearance.
In the same way that I’m not sure Chelsea winning the Premier League title is much more of a dream come true anymore. The top of the English game offers little by way of fairy tales. Money just talks louder.
There is another point to tomorrow’s game – one that, hopefully, will make it a dream day out.
When Norwich travelled to the Millennium Stadium and turned one half of the stadium into an unforgettable sea of green and yellow, they were playing Birmingham City. Who, in fairness, duly painted their half blue and white.
Had Blues lost that day, there was a very strong sense that one or two of their finest would have painted the centre of Cardiff red afterwards. And for jubilant Canary families making their way back to the railway station, a dream day out might have ended very differently.
For parents taking the next generation of Canary support to the biggest game of their impressionable young lives, the fairy tale might have been short-lived. It could have been a nightmare. And Cardiff’s best don’t run, either.
To this day, I strongly suspect South Wales Police felt, on that day, the right team won.
Tomorrow, however, promises to be a wholly different occasion. For a father with a 15-year-old boy making his first trip to Wembley with his Mum’s family, it has all the makings of a fabulous day out.
Whether City win or lose, the memories should stay with him for a life-time.
As to what the likely outcome will be, Middlesbrough have way more about them than the neighbours ever did.
Bamford, in particular, is one of those living the dream right now as the on-loan Chelsea youngster carves the Championship apart. He will offer the biggest test yet for Messrs Bassong and Russell at the heart of that City defence.
That said, there are more than a couple of Canary players for whom the headline writers will be waiting with the word ‘fairy’ and ‘tale’ attached.
None more so than Lewis Grabban, whose early exit away at Rotherham and his subsequent three-match ban have made him odds-on with the footballing fates to do something in the final.
I wouldn’t expect him to start. If it ain’t bust, don’t try and fix it would be the likely mantra when it came to Cameron Jerome starting.
My best hunch in the 22nd year of watching the Canaries at play? City nick it. Grabban plays a significant part as Alex Neil enjoys a fairy tale start to his managerial career south of the border.
But, above all, just enjoy.
These days are your reward. For nights like Blackpool (a) when it started to rain half an hour before kick-off…