Only when things go badly, or worse than you’d hoped, do you fully appreciate the good times.
You know what I’m talking about.
The trudge away from Carrow Road after the Watford game was a grim experience. Doubly so when you consider the equivalent fixture one year ago was the 4-3 win over Millwall.
Chalk and cheese eh?
And it’s that that hurts most as we see the heroes of last season struggle and toil. For a whole variety of reasons – some out of their control and some self-inflicted – the Premier League and this group have not been happy bedfellows. Some. it has to be said, have looked out of their depth. Few have looked at home. Even fewer have prospered.
Harsh maybe… but true.
But there’s no escaping how hard it has been to watch players who were bonafide heroes 12 months ago, have only a fraction of the impact this time around. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
What it has highlighted, yet again, is the huge chasm between the two divisions; a chasm that appears to get wider every time we try and bridge it. We don’t learn.
Every time we do it we – and I’m talking about us, the fans – tell ourselves there is not much to choose between the sides and the top of the Championship and the bottom half of the Premier League. That with a few tweaks and enhancements we will be good enough.
In the adrenalin-fuelled aftermath of that Wembley win over Boro, a writer on this very site proclaimed that even with a centre-back pairing of Seb Bassong and Russell Martin we would have enough to compete and hopefully survive.
(Can only assume the reason he’s still an MFW writer after that flawed prediction is because he’s also the editor!).
But we didn’t have enough. Despite spending c£14 million – a fortune compared to this summer’s transfer pot – it was ultimately a squad ill-equipped to attain 17th place or better, despite having players in it who thought their rightful place was in the Premier League. For most, it wasn’t.
This time around the chasm is wider and the challenges different.
First of all, in the three seasons we have been out of the top tier, another layer has been added to the complexities of staying in there. Having good technicians who can get about the pitch is no longer enough on its own; now those technicians need to be man-mountain type athletes or, at the very least, have said man-mountains as ‘minders’.
And, secondly, in terms of self-belief, this current group have a mere fraction compared to the Class of 2016 who, unwarranted as it was, had oodles of confidence and swagger. This very same swagger, unfortunately, accompanied them back to the Championship; a key component in the undoing of Alex Neil.
As things stand, City are deficient in both areas: unable to match their opponents physically and devoid of the belief they can go to go toe-to-toe with even those in the bottom half of the Premier League.
Those looking for someone to blame will have a difficult job though. The midfield ‘minder’ was supposed to be Ibrahim Amadou with support from Alex Tettey but, for reasons, we all know, this hasn’t happened. And boy have we looked lightweight in those crucial central areas.
The dearth of confidence and belief is related to that same inability to play the square pegs in the square holes. The chopping and changing necessitated by a lack of centre-backs has had a detrimental effect across the board and as the defeats increase in number, the post-promotion belief has drained away commensurately in the opposite direction.
We knew it would be different this time… we are different this time… but I’m not sure any of us, hardy promotees that we have become, quite expected it to be this brutal and unforgiving. The Championship was such a joy and, at times, a doddle (at least that’s how it felt) we expected those same players to be good enough to make the step up. Ultimately, given the challenges thrown at them in the first two months of the season, they haven’t been.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing if, with a full squad to pick from, Daniel Farke’s men could have done a Sheffield United but right now the two clubs are heading in opposite directions.
Let’s just hope by December 8, when the Blades head to Carrow Road, we are in a different place.
Last season’s harmony and togetherness feel like a distant memory but football is notoriously weird and a win in the unlikeliest of circumstances can do incredible things.
Let’s hope a Euro-bound, rejuvenated Teemu Pukki returns safely from his travels, along with a fit, injury-free Jamal Lewis, and we can reset and go again.
The problems and the challenges for Team Farke are the same now as they were straight after the Watford game but they have earned our trust and, let’s face it, other than get behind them and give them our all, what choice do we have?
To get out of the Championship the right way is hellishly difficult. It’d be a crime to let it slide away and accept our fate however great the odds. The yo-yo club argument only works if you know you can bounce back up after relegation. And in the Championship nothing comes guaranteed.
Just ask Alex Neil.