The list of Championship managers to praise Norwich City this season is a long one.

When Middlesbrough head coach Michael Carrick, who has thrived since returning to the North East in the autumn, came into the Canaries' press lounge in November, he said that they were “a terrific team with a lot of good players”.

Birmingham City boss John Eustace told Blues TV prior to their Carabao Cup trip to Carrow Road: “They're a top team. Premier League class, Premier League experience, big squad. It’s a tough challenge going there.”

Reading manager Paul Ince said that City were “a team that has come down from the Premier League with some good players” and that “there’s no pressure or expectations on you” when coming up against them.

While at the time these diagnoses felt like wide-of-the-mark, empty cliches designed to both serve their own interests and satisfy well-trodden media handling utterances, they appear apropos in light of a 4-0 thrashing of Preston North End.

In defence of any cynical subjects to those words, Norwich were muddling through a particularly barren spell throughout most of those appraisals, and any memories of previous Championship triumphs had been eroded by weeks of sterile, indefinable football.

The supposedly Premier League-quality players opposition coaches recognised looked frustratingly absent to City fans. The fluid style many associated them with had been replaced with visions of arid structure.

But what those supporters have seen since David Wagner’s arrival in Norfolk is a revival of their belief in those players. The evidence of the stars feared by opposition staff, players and fans alike has begun to re-emerge, and with it optimism around City’s promotion hopes.

The team members most repressed by the previous regime have been liberated by a newly pro-active system, those in dire need of redemption provided a fresh start.

Even those players ousted from their once-constant positions look renewed – just ask Tim Krul after his pair of fantastic saves in Lancashire.

Kenny McLean has gone from scapegoat status to fan favourite with an impressive FA Cup showing and a leading role in the Preston win. That’s no surprise from the side’s most energetic athlete under a press-led head coach, but Kieran Dowell’s stellar showing displayed that the German isn’t purely after workhorses.

His is a system in which technical ability is allowed to thrive by the foundations laid by running, and that’s good news for the majority of this squad. As Max Aarons highlighted following the 1-0 defeat to Blackburn, they remain a group largely assembled for possession-based football.

Perhaps that’s why they’ve gone so quickly from disappointing regularly to reminding fans what’s so good about them. Aside from the differences in their own performances, attitudes and application, Wagner has placed them in their natural habitat for the first time in 14 months.

What will please those inside the football club is that people believe in them again. While the dutiful faithful had yet to cease their attendance, there were very few who expected results – let alone entertainment – in the last days of Dean Smith’s reign.

They now arrive with a palpable excitement, and hope that their team can live up to the expectations set outside the Norfolk bubble. It’s too late for the assumption of promotion to return, but there’s a feeling that with a fair wind, it might be possible.

Around 5.30pm on Saturday, Preston manager Ryan Lowe said: "Norwich shouldn't be where they are. They should be in the top three, simple as that.

"They are not for a reason, but they have the quality players to get them there. There is no disgrace getting beat off a good team. It is how you get beat."

Those voices that swoop in to discuss Norwich City are usually simplistic in their summary of events at Carrow Road, but perhaps this time they were right.