So, here we go then. Almost time.
Belt up, clench those buttocks and hold on for dear life. We know this one is going to get hairy – probably from the word go.
But the measured, philosophical approach of Messrs Farke and Webber needs to seep beyond the psyche of the players and staff and into the hearts and minds of the fans too.
We, folks, will be on the wrong end of a shellacking or three this season – it’s a given – but it’s how we react to these, rather than the shellackings themselves that will define our season.
And I’ll be honest, from a fans’ perspective the signs are not too promising. The 4-1 home defeat by Atlanta stirred up some online angst that had clearly been suppressed over the course of the glorious 2018/19. So too, come to that, did the news that Grant Hanley starts tonight at Anfield.
Those who had been making the noise over the first six games of last season were afforded, by Atlanta’s win, the oxygen of which they had been starved, and wasted no time in making it count. And it that’s what can occur off the back of a friendly, I dread to think what may reveal itself when there are league points at stake.
Thankfully, some peace was restored thanks to the impressive performance, if not result, against Toulouse, so at least we head to opening night with a modicum of calm and a whole lot of positivity. Just how we like it.
Quite what the mood will be like at 10pm tonight, nobody knows at the moment, but for all the fine preparatory work done off the field by sporting director and head coach, we have to be realistic about the task that awaits.
They’re European Champions (they may have mentioned it), they haven’t lost at Anfield in the league since May 2017 and have this season’s Premier League title in their sights. As footballing challenges come, they don’t come much bigger.
But here’s the thing… in seasons gone by, we’d have been filled full of dread and fear. We’d have headed to Merseyside with thoughts of ‘how many’ and with talk of containment. This time around the chests will be puffed out, the minds will be clear and there’ll be no Luis Suarez in a red shirt.
And while no-one is under any illusions around the magnitude of the task, there will be no-one in today’s matchday squad scarred by Anfield beastings of the recent past – which in itself is huge.
Of course, human nature will kick in and it’s perfectly normal to recognise Anfield for the footballing theatre it is, for its history and the fact the European Champions are lining up opposite, but there’ll be no awe. Those who’d have been happy to be there and who’d have admired the surroundings have no part to play in this iteration of Norwich City.
Instead, those handed the shirt later will see it as both an honour and a privilege to be representing this club – no sense of entitlement, no sense of disconnect with those who support them, but a desire and hunger to do well for themselves, their coach, their teammates, their owners and their supporters.
There’ll be none of half-heartedness of Anfield defeats of the past, there’ll be no white flags and, despite what Charlie Nicholas may think, there’ll be parking of the bus on our 18-yard-line.
This is a version of Norwich City to be immensely proud of, one that does it the right way, a group of players and staff who are probably the most likeable and relatable any of us have ever encountered. And, to ignore the noise from pundits and ‘experts’, this is a good side, a side that contains talented, hungry players who have earned their chance to shine under the brightest lights.
Instead of the MSM glibly throwing out soundbites around the amount of money City haven’t spent, it may have been an idea – if money has to be the be-all and end-all of the Premier League – to instead look at the value of City’s existing squad.
While Villa and others were splashing out multi-millions on big-named strikers, we already have one in the house. While Manchester United were spunking £50 million on a right-back, we already have one who we think is just as good. Ditto left-backs, ditto creative attacking midfielders.
So, just because our spending has been modest compared to the 19 others, the assumption that our squad is, therefore, weak is a flawed one.
But, I’m shouting into a hurricane. They’ll not listen, they never do, which makes the prospect of rattling a few cages all the more appealing.
So, let’s do what Stuart says and ignore the noise. We know the road will be bumpy, we know there’ll be some heartache, but if we can somehow find a way to stick together in the dark moments, the good ones will be that much sweeter.
Never Mind the Danger…