What if, improbable as it seems, we claw our way to safety in the brutally unforgiving Premier League?
Without quibble or fudge I agree with those who say that, currently, we look a long way off being able to compete, let alone linger, in the top tier.
I’ve been there to see every ball we’ve kicked this season, and all those balls we didn’t get close enough to kick. It has been, truly, a lot of balls.
We had moderately decent spells in each game but didn’t do enough to get anything. Instead, we did enough – in the way of defensive howlers – to make conceding goals inevitable. We’ve been soft and compliant. We’ve not “taken care of the football”, as another cliché demands. Our attack has been flaccid. It has been unremittingly grim.
Yeah, but what if we survive?
What if our first point – whenever and however it arrives – lifts the mood and morale? And then, without any sustained form, we pick up so some more points? What if, agonisingly slowly, among the remaining 32 games, eventually we glean the nine wins and nine draws it will probably take to avoid relegation?
Yes, I know. “If is the biggest word in football,” insists the cliché. And if my Auntie Vera had testicles … that would now be entirely acceptable.
But if we could survive this season it would be a significant moment in the history, not just of the great club in the fine city, but of football. I believe that because, whatever our glib detractors say, what Norwich City are attempting is the most ambitious project in English football of the post-Abramovich era.
Ignorant broadcasters and phone-in know-nothing know-alls can just about be excused for saying we lack ambition, but it is utterly bewildering that some of our own supporters still spout that arrant tosh too.
Nobody else has tried to do what we are striving to achieve. Just saying, “We’re self-sustaining” doesn’t begin to tell the story of our vaulting aspirations.
Our plan is to become established in the Premier League, while building long-term financial stability, using as many home-grown players as we can and playing attractive, possession-based football.
Nobody is trying all that. In fact, every time you see what appears to be a brave “little” club earning plaudits for making an impact in the Premier League without financial clout, a closer inspection will reveal different details.
Brentford? They’re this season’s media darlings. They recruit using “Moneyball” principles, a bit like us. But they had a chunk of the £71m cost of their new stadium underwritten by their owner Matthew Benham.
And, anyway, it’s a tad premature to laud Brentford as a miracle. Their success needs to last longer than the Sheffield United miracle before anyone gets carried too away about them.
So let’s just worry about us at the moment. There’s plenty of scope for anxiety, after all.
But if we can perform an historic miracle, I’d ring up some old friends on TalkSPORT radio and demand a chance to crow.
We are four points worse off than we were at this stage after our first promotion to the Premier League, in 2004 under Nigel Worthington, but that squad had some dreadful subsequent spells – losing 12 and winning just two of 16 matches from the start of December.
The tide turned spectacularly when Dean Ashton and Leon McKenzie scored second-half goals to vanquish Manchester United at Carrow Road in the second game of April. That sparked a spirited run of four wins, a draw and a very narrow defeat so that we arrived at the last game of the season knowing a win would keep us up.
That made the final fixture so crushing; a 6-0 defeat at Fulham has left scars. But it remains a fact that, in a season which saw us plumb the depths of form and belief, we finished only two points short of survival.
In 2013, under Chris Hughton, relegation looked a distinct possibility until West Brom (“already on the beach” according to Hughton’s detractors) were thrashed at Carrow Road in the last home game of the season.
And there are plenty of examples of Houdini acts by Premier League clubs. Southampton (1999), Sunderland (2014 and 2016), Wolves (2011) and Wigan (also 2011) all stayed up despite spending 200 days or more – two-thirds of the season – in the relegation zone.
Palace started the 2017-18 season with four straight defeats without scoring a solitary goal. They finished the campaign in 11th place.
Stewart Lewis wrote yesterday that he was refusing to lose faith yet. He probably learned his stoicism waiting forlornly for an acceptable pass when he used to play as a striker in front of my ageing attempts to operate at fullback.
I find fatalism is a lot easier. The only way I was able to cope with the misery of the long, detour-filled drive home from Everton was to cast all hope aside. Because, as we all know, it is the hope that gets you.
It was John Cleese who popularised that thought. In the film Clockwise, he said: “It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” His character, a headmaster, was trying desperately to reach a conference. It was in Norwich.
So I tend towards beaten-down resignation when things are as bleak as they appear at the moment for the football club about which I care.
But … but what if we can survive? Wouldn’t that be something?