Chris Goreham: Forget about 2015... we’ve just witnessed the best way to win promotion
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
How far have Norwich City come in the past nine months?
Given that they started their season at Birmingham City and ended it at Aston Villa the answer is actually around four miles which is only slightly longer than your average open top bus parade.
The Canaries certainly decided to take the scenic route through the Championship, leaving City fans everywhere with memories of stoppage time heroics, exciting attacking football and eventually celebrations that will last a lifetime.
If the magnitude of Norwich City’s achievements this season haven’t hit home yet they ought to over the next week as we have the luxury of sitting back and watching Leeds United, West Brom, Aston Villa and Derby go through the torment and torture of the play-offs.
All four of those sides were much more fancied for promotion than the Canaries were back in August and most of them probably still were until that landmark win at Leeds in February.
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To have finished above them all so comfortably is an achievement worth celebrating as much as Kenny McLean had done when he appeared on the City Hall balcony having apparently disrobed the town crier.
Since that win over Middlesbrough at Wembley four years ago the perceived wisdom amongst Norwich fans has been that winning the play-offs is the best way to earn promotion in the unlikely event that you actually get to choose.
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I think the 2018/19 season disproves that theory. It is much better to win the league.
The gloss can never be taken off that wonderful triumph clinched by Alex Neil’s men back in 2015 but, if I’m honest, no matter how comfortable we can say it was now, right up until the moment that the referee blew his final whistle at Wembley there was a nagging sense that the Canaries were one official’s poor decision or one unfortunate mistake away from their entire season imploding.
The two-legged epic semi-final against Ipswich was so stressful that it felt like an outpouring of relief as much as celebration when the Canaries finally saw off their local rivals at Carrow Road.
When your team wins the league you feel less like a lottery winner and more like someone who has earned their Premier League millions through hard work, elbow grease and persistence.
If seeing the players dance round Carrow Road after beating Blackburn and clinching promotion was joyous then watching the famous Championship trophy lifted high in the yellow and green corner of Villa Park on Sunday was immensely satisfying.
A group of players, coaches and officials getting their just reward for everything they had given to the cause during the season in a sport that often seems so unfair.
If your team can finish five points clear of their nearest rivals and 11 ahead of third place then there can be no doubt that you support the very best the division has to offer.
It’s not luck, it’s not the rub-of-the-green or any of the other illogical explanations that football supporters often reach for to back up an argument that is running out of steam quicker than the bus Norwich City had planned to use in their parade. It is 46 games worth of cold, hard fact.
The Premier League should hold no fear, we’ve been there before and by now enough times to have a complete grasp of the challenges that await in August.
Daniel Farke has been quite right to deflect the attention from questions about next season this week, urging us all to enjoy the moment.
When it does come though, it’s going to be eventful.
I can’t wait to find out what the next four miles will be like.