Wow – that was fun wasn’t it!
Having watched a recording or two, or three, of the greatest 94 minutes in Canary history I’m ecstatic to confirm (again) that it wasn’t just a wonderful dream.
Just over thirty years on from a day that I thought couldn’t be bettered, Norwich City Football Club provided us another Wembley occasion that will be forever etched in the memory.
From that first sighting of a yellow and green scarf, en route to that small town in Suffolk early yesterday morning, through to the closing credits of last night’s The Football League Show – which reduced me to tears – it was one that was well-nigh perfect.
‘A day that dreams came true’ was how Mr Waghorn described it, and who can argue.
The whole occasion was of course underpinned by City’s best performance of the season – and those opening 25 minutes were just about as exhilarating as anything I’ve witnessed in 40+ years of being a City fan – but beyond that it was the little things that served to make it a day of days.
Small things like David McNally nudging Delia to tell her she was on the big screen.
Like Cameron Jerome giving those same Boro fans a straight-faced ‘ssshhh’ after scoring.
Like the primal roar that followed Nathan Redmond’s goal.
Like John Ruddy incurring the wrath of the Boro fans for dawdling over a goal kick.
Like that On the Ball City rendition on 87 minutes when we instinctively just knew…
And – on a personal level – like bumping into a friend I’ve not seen for 14 years on that joyous stroll back to Wembley Park tube station.
All conspired, along with the small matter of winning a game of football worth in excess of £120 million on the Wembley turf, to make it a day that even Carlsberg couldn’t dream of delivering.
As ever, Alex Neil’s decision-making was exemplary and, in his usual meticulous style, he offered the players a perfect platform on which they could deliver one of the biggest 90+ minutes in the club’s history.
The calmness exuded by him in the game’s build-up was borne out by his players, whose composure shone through against twitchy opponents, and the mindset of all involved – starting and ending with the manager – was a master-class in what it takes to manage the big occasion.
Tactically too Alex was bang on the money and it was obvious from minute one that Boro would not be permitted the electric start to the game they enjoyed at Carrow Road.
His demand for a high-octane opening was heeded to the letter and in just fifteen minutes the game was effectively over.
The seventeen passes that preceded Redmond’s classy finish were of an ilk rarely seen amidst such tension but such was the assured calmness displayed by those in yellow, Boro’s once impenetrable back-four were majestically given the hot knife through butter treatment.
And from there it was just a case of doing nothing silly or, put another way, doing ‘a Boro’. And with Olsson, Bassong, Martin and Whittaker in imperious form those from the north-east were handed a challenge they were ill-equipped to tackle.
They huffed, puffed, lit the odd red flare, but barely laid a glove on a City rearguard that, while resisting the cigars and carpet slippers, looked as composed as they have done at any stage this season.
It was as professional as it was clinical and few – even the good folk of talkSPORT – can dispute that City are deserving of their place in next season’s Premier League.
For Middlesbrough it was a case of coming up well short and, in fairness, most clad in red were as honourable in defeat as Aitor Karanka, who rightly earned the plaudits for his post-match handshakes for the City staff and players.
For those who painted Trafalgar Square red on Friday night and boasted of a thumping Boro win it must be crushing but if I can offer one crumb of consolation it’s that they probably shaded the pre-match decibel levels.
But. as alluded to by colleagues, those from Norfolk tend to look after their own and if Master Nelson was feeling a tad ‘invaded’ on the eve of the game, he would have wholly approved of yesterday afternoon’s revenge.
With regard to what lies ahead, those from south of the border have been quick to wheel out the ‘r’ word but, while it’s far too early to speculate, I have an inkling things are going to be different this time round.
In Alex, Frankie and Gary we have a trio who will be champing at the bit to get stuck into the big names, and it’s a given that inferiority will be in short supply in 2015/16.
But that’s for another day.
For now we should enjoy the moment. They don’t come along very often.
Yesterday was one we can all dine out on for a month or two but will remain in the mind for rather longer.
The sight and sound of Wembley being awash with vibrant yellow and green was spine-tingling and breath-taking in equal measures, and created the most amazing backdrop to the most perfect day.
Seldom have I felt prouder to wear the Canary on my chest and be part of the Yellow Army. We often talk of the force we can be when all in unison and yesterday, when it mattered most, we found harmony on the biggest stage.
As for Team Neil and the players – for the umpteenth time, we asked them to Never mind the danger.