I don’t tend to use ‘From The Archives’ for my own columns – they’re wholly undeserving – but given that it’s five years to the day that we all descended upon Wembley for that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon against Boro, I thought this may be worth another airing.
Written early the following morning, so please forgive the excessive euphoria, and maybe give a swerve to the bit where I infer we’d hold our in the PL…
Wow – that was fun wasn’t it!
Having watched a recording or two, or three, of the greatest 94 minutes in Canary history I can confirm 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 with 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 induced tears from a grown man – it was one that was well-nigh perfect.
‘A day that dreams came true’ was how Mr Waghorn described it, and who could possibly 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.
✦ Walking into a near-deserted, echoey, stadium.
✦ That first strain of On the Ball City as those red seats turned gradually yellow.
✦ The roar as the players emerged for the warm-up.
✦ Alex Neil changing from suit to tracksuit in a matter of seconds after the national anthem.
✦ David McNally gently nudging Delia to tell her she was on the big screen.
✦ Cameron Jerome giving those same Boro fans a straight-faced ‘ssshhh’ after scoring.
✦ John Ruddy incurring the wrath of the Boro fans for dawdling over a goal kick.
✦ That On the Ball City rendition on 87 minutes when we instinctively just knew…
✦ And – on a personal level – bumping into a friend I’ve not seen for 14 years on that glorious stroll back down 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 a 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 kickback.
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 around.
In Alex, Frankie and Gary we have a trio 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 regardless of quality of opposition.
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 much longer. For eternity.
The sight and sound of Wembley awash with vibrant yellow and green was spine-tingling and breath-taking in equal measure 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 we’re 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.