This was supposed to be game one of an eight-game mini-league that was going to conclude in Wembley glory. At least it was for the dreamers.
But not going to happen is it.
Right now we look nothing more than an ordinary Championship side – one destined to be subsumed in that group of middling Championship teams who are nothing more than ‘in the mix’ for the playoff places of the future.
Nothing exceptional. Capable on their day when the wind is in the right direction but some way off, in terms of quality, the best teams in the division.
All of which was brought crashing home yesterday when we came second-best to a Sheffield United team who themselves, despite being seemingly destined for the Premier League, are wholly unexceptional.
Burnley came, conquered and looked the part. The Blades just conquered… and niggled, irritated, and moaned.
But, as ever, they had the last laugh. They always do. Not since Bus-Driver-Gate at Bramall Lane in August 2017 have we beaten them.
So defeat itself came as no great surprise. What did though was the fact that as the home side and one with supposed ambitions of making the playoffs, we end up having just a single shot on target.
One. And for that, we had to wait until the 92nd minute.
On a season of grim Carrow Road days, this one was right up there.
Another afternoon that wasn’t without effort and endeavour, but which was horribly shy on guile, invention, and energy.
The mitigation, I guess, comes in the form of players unavailable through injury but as one of those clubs still in receipt of parachute payments, our squad depth is supposed to be able to withstand the loss of a Kieran Dowell, an Onel Hernandez and a Marcelino Nunez.
If it can’t, then I’d suggest it’s not been a particularly well-constructed squad.
The problems are plentiful, we’ve lost 14 games, and yet we’re still on the fringes of the playoff places, which says a lot about the ridiculousness of this season’s Championship.
But this group has given us no reason to believe. When faced with top-six opposition they invariably come second.
No zip, no freshness, and no spark.
Tactically too, they come second-best too often and it was no surprise that over the course of the piece yesterday they ended up being outbattled in midfield by a team that has battling as its raison d’etre.
Playing three centre-forwards in a front three with Marquinhos being asked to also join in was always going to ask a lot of Kenny McLean and Gabriel Sara. Ultimately it was asking too much.
Whether Josh Sargent is playing as a 10 or as one of Pukki’s wingmen, in neither role is he as effective as he is when asked to play down the middle. Similarly, asking Adam Idah to play the Hernandez role is never going to end as well as asking him to play centrally – where he’s at home.
And the person tasked with playing down the middle, one of the Championship’s great strikers, is only effective in that role if he is given at least a half-decent supply of goalscoring opportunities. But he isn’t being and wasn’t yesterday.
So you end up with an inefficient use of all three players, all of which is then exacerbated by an inability to retain possession – a major flaw in a team that is by design possession based.
The head coach sounds frustrated, the players look frustrated and the fans are definitely frustrated… not to mention disillusioned and exasperated.
I’ll no doubt be reminded in the comments below that this is merely the lot of your average football fan and that Norwich supporters are now merely experiencing a trough that will be counteracted in the near future by a peak, and maybe, but that general feeling of unease refuses to subside.
The general apathy and lack of hope and excitement are the very antitheses of why we are football fans in the first place. Hope and excitement are our lifeblood.
So, forgive me for the downbeat tone of this piece, but it feels as if our club is at a crossroads both on and off the pitch.
The summer refresh so badly needed within the squad is also required in the boardroom. The staleness witnessed yesterday on the grass is matched by a lack of drive and ideas in the corridors of power.
The end of the season and a summer reset on an industrial-sized scale can’t come soon enough.