These are very early days and so let’s not fall into the trap of those down south and start celebrating promotion after one week, but this is starting to feel like it could be fun again.
The last two seasons have been anything but and one of the most trotted-out tropes over that time was that supporting Norwich City had become a joyless experience.
Trips to Carrow Road had ceased being remotely pleasurable, hence the swathes of visible yellow seats on matchdays, and those hardy souls who followed City on the road did so out of a sense of duty more than anything else.
It was clear too that the players felt the same. There appeared not the slightest hint of enjoyment in anything they did on the pitch and their performances reflected it.
It was staid and it was stale from top to bottom – from boardroom through to matchday steward.
Yet, based admittedly on a sample size of only two, it appears David Wagner’s men are enjoying their football again and, as a result, so are we.
Yesterday, against opponents who are highly likely to be in the mix for the automatics, we matched them and but for an iffy late penalty would have beaten them.
We can have few complaints though, even if Kyle Walker-Peters went down (and stayed down) as if picked out by a St Mary’s sniper when, in fact, his brush with Dimi Giannoulis was as gentle as a gentle thing in the land of cotton wool.
But, hey, we maybe got away with one last Saturday, so let’s not go all Rosenior about it. A draw was fair.
There is still, of course, plenty for Wagner and his coaches to work on at Colney and, despite two of Southampton’s goals being penalties, no one likes to concede four in any circumstances. To score four and not win a game is a rarity, although when that happens to us it does tend to be against the Saints.
But there’s an identity emerging in this City team, one that we were promised when Wagner arrived but which failed to materialise in the second half of last season.
Back when Dean Smith was sacked and Wagner appointed, I penned a piece looking at his footballing background and the impact he’d made at his new clubs, particularly at Huddersfield.
The most telling thing that came out of the modicum of research was the very obvious toll that Wagner-ball takes on the body. Huddersfield’s Class of 2015-16 spoke of leaden legs, of burning lungs, and of being dead on their feet after 70 minutes of a game.
But we saw little of that last season. One can only assume that group of players had neither the physical nor mental capacity to implement that style of football.
They do now though.
They’re evidently much fitter than the shower left behind by Dean Smith, but they’re also sharper in movement and thought. They also appear bigger, stronger, and faster – all prime Championship qualities that were badly lacking last season and several seasons before that.
And in Ashley Barnes and Shane Duffy, we appear to have two individuals who won’t suffer faint hearts and who certainly won’t tolerate any of the lily-liveredness we witnessed last season.
This group appears tougher in every sense and, as a result, appears – and yes, still early days – more resilient and able to handle adversity.
I’m not sure if last season they would have been able to respond to going 2-1 down after having made such a good start to the game and having scored a good team goal.
The psychological damage done by going from 1-0 up to 2-1 down in the space of four minutes would have knocked the stuffing out of them to such an extent, I’m not sure they would have had the wherewithal to respond.
It happened so many times. The belief would drain away both on the pitch and in the stands and that sense of ‘here we go again’ would grip us all. And we’d lose.
But no. There was to be no buckling or crumbling at St Mary’s. Instead, a 2-1 deficit was turned into a 3-2 lead, courtesy of two more excellent goals – the left-foot hit from Gabriel Sara being a thing of absolute beauty.
The equaliser from Che Adams was all a bit too familiar in its execution and in the way it was defended but, as with each setback in the game, City’s response was positive.
Even when under those long spells of pass-pass-pass pressure that Russell Martin demands of his teams, City remained of an attacking mindset and never stopped looking for opportunities to break.
Even before he made it 4-3 with that cracking finish, Christian Fassnacht found time to miss what was an equally presentable chance, but what was most notable – aside from a terrible first touch – was his desire to make that lung-bursting run to make himself available for Josh Sargent’s square pass.
The early signs suggest the Swiss international is going to offer something different from all of the other wide options available to Wagner – like a poacher’s instinct.
Unfortunately, when the fourth official’s board went up to tell us there would be a minimum of eight additional minutes, it was inevitable that Martin’s metronomes would create another chance or two. And, as if they needed any assistance, enter Darren England.
But, as uttered by almost every City fan once the St Mary’s dust had settled, we’d have taken a point if offered to us before the start, so there was little to get too uppity about and rather more to be proud of.
There is still plenty of scope for this group to grow and improve – that goes without saying – but many of the terrible traits of 2022-23 have either been addressed or are being addressed.
And, most importantly of all, and it’s worth repeating, it feels fun again.
Who knows where this will take us, it may take us not very far at all, but at 17:00 last night I felt proud of my team. And that’s really all we ask.