So, the players return to training tomorrow, just three weeks and a day from the guns falling silent on our Premier League experiment of 2019/20.
That gives Team Farke 26 days to lick this sorry bunch into shape and get their bodies and, more importantly, minds ready for a Championship campaign that promises to be even more brutal than normal.
‘Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday’ is a phrase often used to describe the incessant nature of an EFL campaign but this season there will be even more midweek games given how concertinaed it has to be.
If normally, the Championship is a marathon, not a sprint, this time around it’s an ultramarathon across the Gobi Desert.
It’ll not be for faint hearts.
As it’s starting six weeks later than usual, there will be 13 midweek rounds and will conclude with the play-off final at Wembley on May 31.
(Put it in the diary?).
We’ll know more this Friday (21st) when the fixtures are released (9am).
Rightly or wrongly, City have been installed by most bookies as third-favourites for promotion, behind Watford and Brentford, with odds as short as 5/2. At this early stage I suspect these have been governed by odds compilers rather than by the volume and value of bets – IE. Based purely on stats.
For me, that ignores the Premier League hangover, which we know from experience can be brutal.
But how have City managed said pounding head and feeling of nausea in the 21st century? Has Alka-Seltzer and a full English been enough to clear the head and mind for an assault on promotion from the Championship?
I remember this one vividly. Still full of hope despite that most Norwich City of wallopings at Craven Cottage on the final day of 2004-05, when a win that would have kept us up was somehow turned into a 6-0 defeat.
Still we clapped, even if we weren’t sure what the hell we were clapping. (I just know it wasn’t Damian Francis).
But, despite having a team that included Hucks and Dean Ashton, Worthy was unable to lift them much beyond mid-table mediocrity and the football was equally mediocre. Three draws in the three opening games, all at home, set the tone I’m afraid.
When Dean Ashton departed for the bright lights of the East End in January – to be replaced at the eleventh hour by Robert Earnshaw – the natives were already getting restless.
We finished 9th, 13 points off the play-offs.
Neil Adams was holding the reins by the time the drop was confirmed although, to be fair, Chris Hughton did most of the heavy lifting. And so it was “Neyul” who was tasked with moulding the group into one fit for promotion.
The squad was given a refresh of sorts in the summer but if I tell you we lost Anthony Pilkington, Robert Snodgrass and Leroy Fer and replaced then with, among others, Carlos Cuellar, Ignasi Miquel and Tony Andreu, you’ll get the gist.
There were some useful additions too, including Lewis Grabban and Cameron Jerome, but it was the lot who remained who were the problem, with a rotten stench of Premier League entitlement stinking the place out for the first two thirds of the season.
Despite briefly looking the part, Adams’ inability to handle and manage such a stroppy bunch eventually saw him fall on his sword in the January, and it was north of the border that David McNally headed to find a replacement.
The Alex Neil effect was almost instant and despite just missing out on automatic promotion, he and Frankie McAvoy took us on the journey of a lifetime via a two-legged playoff semifinal win over our nearest and dearest and a win over Boro in the Wembley sunshine.
And we were back before we’d hardly arrived.
Alex Neil’s stocked remained high despite a typically underwhelming Premier League survival effort and two defeats in the opening 13 league games of 2016-17 suggested he’d found a successful hangover cure.
A run of eight defeats in the ten games that followed was a sign that all was not well, and bit-by-bit it all began to unravel, the Yellow Army increasingly losing faith in the man who had delivered us Wembley.
With ten games of the season left and with the playoffs out of reach, the trigger was pulled and Alan Irvine appointed as temporary manager.
Despite a decent run-in, we still finished two places and ten points shy of the play-offs… another underwhelming response to relegation, armed with a squad that was good enough to do better.
Verdict: A bit $hit
The moral of the story is… well, there isn’t one really, other than to say there is no fast-track back to the Premier League, if indeed the Premier League is your detination of choice.
Even a squad that is not quite good enough to stay in the PL can struggle to adapt to life in the Championship, let alone one that crashed and burned, breaking records aplenty along the way, so there is one almighty battle ahead.
To underestimate the size of it would be madness.
That Villa, Leeds and West Brom are not our rivals this season has to be a good thing, but Watford will tinker and scheme as Watford do and Brentford, despite losing some of their best players, will do what Brentford do and replace them with more good players.
Both will be up there but so too will some well-funded, big clubs who see the PL as their rightful place in the footballing pecking order.
That Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber are back on familiar ground, on which they have experienced success, is a good thing but this time it comes with expectation and therefore added pressure.
I’m slightly less sceptical than I was three ago, but I still maintain there is still a sizeable mountain to be climbed and much depends on what Lady Luck has in store for us.
We’re due some aren’t we?