For football supporters, happiness can be extracted from a patch of grass, some white paint, four flags and two nets.
Yet the meaning is so much deeper than that. The sense of belonging and tribal togetherness which is created on a football terrace is replicated almost nowhere else in life.
When the game breaks for a summer hiatus, there is a sense of emptiness that the feeling of camaraderie is absent, with Saturdays being vacated with family barbeques or shopping trips. Admittedly, the World Cup has helped fill a void in the football addict’s summer, but domestic football is the pinnacle.
This absence becomes ever more apparent when matters such as pre-season training become the hot topic of conversation. The transfer speculation becomes tedious and predictable; some resent the window, even those who work inside the game.
The reality is that any football that fills the void and ends the break will be over analysed, dissected and consumed as supporters decipher almost anything from a fixture against Kings Lynn Town.
Particularly in those embryonic stages of pre-season, fitness is the priority and double sessions are common. Tactical work isn’t extensively covered until later on, in City’s case on the German tour which the squad have just embarked on.
Attempting to discover trends and patterns that may indicate the fortunes of the squad over the upcoming season is a meaningless exercise.
Admittedly, pre-season can create a sense of optimism if the results are positive – particularly those accomplished against higher calibre opposition like Wolfsburg – but it can also raise false expectations or a sense of new beginnings where staleness is still prominent. It’s impossible to cast accurate judgement.
The dazzling displays of Mario Vrancic last pre-season, as he dictated games and displayed a Pirlo-like style of playing the game, earned him rave reviews for his performances. Contrast that with the reality once the Championship season began, and the Bosnian looked out of his depth and struggled with the pace of the game.
Also, a certain Dutch striker scored goals against Braintree or Cambridge United and we were fooled into thinking this was the beginning of his revival, yet even Ricky van Wolfswinkel appeared to get stage fright on the big occasions.
And there have been occasions when the team have coasted past all before them in pre-season, including a Manchester United XI prior to Bryan Gunn’s side League One bow against Colchester United. The rest, of course, is history. And on the flip side, in Suffolk, the belligerent Mick McCarthy witnessed his Ipswich side embarrassed at the hands of League One Charlton last season.
Worrying doesn’t need to occur until the August 4. That is when the situation becomes real and meaningful analysis can be conducted.
The primary objective is simply to ensure players get through pre-season unscathed, and it came as no surprise to see Norwich not return to the Abbey Stadium after the injuries suffered to Alex Pritchard and Timm Klose last summer.
Tactical work will be filtered into gruelling fitness sessions, where players will be physically and mentally fatigued. While this may seem extreme now, remember that City were productive in the latter stages of matches often last campaign, as witnessed in games against Hull and Ipswich.
Pre-season is merely a mask that acts as a cover of what can be expected.
Sure, sometimes exceptions emerge – Jamal Lewis’ impressive performances earned him a regular starting berth at Norwich after a prolonged injury and James Maddison’s talent was exposed at the Valley, a game when Steven Naismith was amongst the scorers.
That’s not to say there haven’t been positive elements to this pre-season, but they must be taken with a pinch of salt and scepticism. Equally, the fresh concession of set pieces coupled with ‘slapstick’ defending, are issues arising that now have time to be worked on.
Removing the sizable contributions of Maddison and Josh Murphy from last season has understandably led to a worry over a lack of productivity in the final third, but City have displayed signs that this could be repaired through Teemu Pukki and Jordan Rhodes.
The evidence, however, needs to be seen in Championship fixtures as oppose to run-outs in Germany, and these fixtures need to be taken with caution and perspective.
For Farke, pre-season acts as an opportunity to experiment and dabble with the altering formations and look for possible combinations, whilst players gain minutes and, crucially, fitness.
For players like Louis Thompson, pre-season can (and hopefully will) be the re-ignition of a City career so far stalled by injury, and his acceleration through recovery is evidence he has a significant role to play in the upcoming season.
Pre-season: a lot to make of nothing.
There are always a few things which can be extracted – for example, Nelson Oliveira’s omission and Russell Martin’s demotion – but those involved are being assessed and judged. Fitness is of paramount importance, and all steps gear up to opening day at St Andrew’s.
So, don’t panic over pre-season either way. It’s a wonderful nonsense that fills the footballing void. Any judgement should be reserved, for the time being at least.