Recalling the day Canaries put Boro to the sword
PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:42 25 September 2017
It’s a long haul up to Middlesbrough: a bit of A17, the perils of the A1 and then the industrial landscape of the north-east all has to be negotiated before a ball is kicked in anger.
For City fans, there will inevitably be memories of the last meeting between the sides – and if anything can make a journey go smoother it will be recalling the events of May 25, 2015 when City beat Boro 2-0 in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Many say the best way to earn promotion isn’t by winning the title, it’s by winning the play-off – although that of course has its dangerous lottery element.
However, City had the game sewn up inside the opening quarter-of-an hour. In an outstanding display of game management, goals by Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond put City in the driving seat – and Boro hardly got a look-in afterwards.
The game had the perfect backdrop: a beautiful sunny May day in west London, the yellow and green army lighting up the home of football.
Who can forget the trophy being hoisted aloft by the players, the manager, Alex Neil, then chief executive David McNally?
Days like that are ones to savour, they don’t come around very often. But it was not just a big day out, a jolly boys’ outing to London; there was work to be done, and money to be won – the inescapable fact of the play-offs is that the reward is enormous. It is the biggest prize on offer for a single game of football anywhere. Estimates vary from £80m to £150m, depending on which particular media you read, but the truth is it was closer to £90m.
Of course, the winning club would need every penny to survive in the top flight: it has to be spent wisely, a bit of prudence with ambition as one former chief exec used to say.
And that’s where the problems begin to set in and reality begins to bite.
City took their place in the Premier League for the 2015-16 campaign, and whilst it started off well enough, things became problematic early in the New Year with 11 winless league and cup games and five defeats in the last six. City were relegated, and Middlesbrough came up, automatically, although they too lasted only one season.
So it’s back to square one, still searching for the ultimate prize. The pursuit continues tonight – and if it doesn’t go well, just dream about Wembley on the way home, and what might be ...