As ridiculous as it seems, in less than a fortnight we’ll be mulling over next season’s fixtures. Those wishing to milk every last drop out of City’s play-off triumph had better be quick about it.
The stark reality of what lies ahead will soon be revealed and with it will come the reopening of some old, festering wounds, most the result of that turgid, soul destroying and ultimately fruitless last season in the top flight.
The memories of the no-shows, the ultra-defensive mindset and the all too regular capitulations still remain – in particular, I suspect, for the travelling Yellow Army.
So too the dismissiveness of the pundits, that general feeling of being unwelcome guests at a swish party and, of course, that sinking feeling when skimming down the Match of the Day running order.
For some the play-offs represented a great adventure, but one that, had it ended in Wembley disappointment, would have been met with little more than a shrug.
After all, we were almost unanimous in agreeing that regardless of the highs and lows, the Championship had been much more fun than the Premier League, in particular said second season under Chris Hughton’s tutelage.
The safety net of another swashbuckling 46-game season was, for some, almost irresistible.
Yet, here we are now, just over a year after suffering the aforementioned pain, ready and raring to go again. All bright eyed and bushy tailed.
In the best footballing traditions of blind hope and optimism we will kick-off again on August 8, with aspirations of mid-table comfort and – this is a biggie – perhaps even a cup run?
That leaves Alex Neil just 65 days to transform the current iteration – I.E. ‘the best squad in the Championship’ – into an outfit that’s at least the 17th best in the Premier League. In truth however, there is little doubt the gaffer’s aspirations will be rather higher than one place above the relegation zone.
While to the watching world I expect the club to trot out the ‘consolidation in the first season back’ platitude, I’m positive that was not the mindset that took Hamilton Academicals to third place in the SPL at the turn of the year.
Like another Scot before him, Alex will be wanting to ‘give it a right go’.
And it’s on that basis, without sticking my neck out too far, I like to think that in twelve months time we won’t be undertaking the next round soul-searching, which tends to accompany the club’s every backward step.
That’s not to say it won’t be a rough ride at times – and it’s a little too early for serious predictions – but if the last 25 games have told us anything it’s that Messrs Neil, McAvoy and Holt will not just be taking City along for the ride. The planning will be meticulous, so too the tactical and mental preparation.
In my first Metro column of the new season (yes, really) I was asked to offer five reasons as to why City will survive in the Premier League. I came up with four and a half – number five was stretching it a bit – but in the process convinced myself that with a few astute summer buys we do indeed have what it takes to compete at the highest level.
Much of course rests on the ability of Team Neil to create that same environment of fearlessness that prevailed in Hamilton in the second half of 2014, and also the harnessing of the underdog mentality epitomised by the Accies’ 1-0 win at Celtic Park.
In terms of being in the City dugout, it will be a different ball game as of August 8. No more being the big fish.
In the less rarefied atmosphere of the Championship, Neil knew that if he could get a tune out of a squad which – regardless of its description – was one of the best in the division, he could deliver as promised.
This time round he’ll be regularly locking horns with the haves in a division in which City will be in a small group of have-nots – relatively speaking of course.
He’s already cited the management of expectation levels as one of his biggest challenges and there is no question the Y’Army will need to brace itself for some disappointing afternoons.
Also the harsh reality is that the undefeated away record will be unlikely to survive too many weeks into the new season.
But what we can expect is that every sinew will be strained in order to make it happen.
Last time out ‘sleep walking to relegation’ became a phrase synonymous with the club’s inglorious slide to the second tier but, even before a ball has been kicked, it’s clear season 2015/16 will be different.
The next few weeks will be fascinating and already behind the scenes a file marked ‘Scenario A’ is being actioned. For now, all we can do is sit tight, trust Alex and Frankie, and let Macca do his dealing.
Roll on June 17.