David Freezer: Get those coping strategies in place, City fans, this could be a brilliant but bumpy ride
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It’s always good to enjoy some opening-game hype but here’s the stark reality: Norwich City will consistently have to play at least as well as their best performances last season to have a chance of survival in the Premier League.
Winning 3-1 at Leeds, 4-1 at Swansea or 2-1 at Nottingham Forest, those are the base-line performances for Daniel Farke's team to set their bar against if they are to compete with the big boys.
It's a harsh reality but the planet's most watched and, usually, most dramatic, league takes no prisoners. The step up from the Championship is huge, as City teams of the past have found so painfully.
Here's the good news though: this squad can do it.
Those excellent displays which teed up title success, are the proof that Farke and his players are capable of performing at this level. That they produced at crunch time with wins over Blackburn and Aston Villa, to seal promotion and then the title, proved they could handle the pressure - and there is sure to be some serious pressure along the way this season.
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The Canaries only endured back-to-back defeats once as they constructed their title challenge and that was almost a year ago, when a chaotic 4-3 home loss to West Brom was followed by a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield United, and even that required a last-gasp Billy Sharp winner.
In fact City head into this season having tasted defeat in just one of their last 21 league matches, the only loss of 2019 so far, when Alex Neil's Preston inflicted a 3-1 disappointment.
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That momentum is great to have but equally, it's not going to last too much longer. Accepting that defeats are on the way is the sad reality of promotion, once the adrenaline has worn off.
Stuart Webber and Farke have both warned supporters of that reality ever since they finished climbing one mountain and set their sights on the next peak in the midst of a first Carrow Road promotion party in 49 years.
Setting that stall out early could be particularly crucial to being able to retain the hard fought unity which enveloped last season's success, that brought fresh colour and flag-waving enthusiasm to the stands, which energised supporters in a way never seen before.
So ask yourself, how will you deal with those dark days when they arrive? Head to social media for a meltdown, pick a scapegoat to moan about in the City team or lay into the club's owners for not splashing the cash - despite the fact the transfer window is closed and that ship has sailed?
I'm not encouraging a North Korea style blanket ban on criticising Norwich City, of course. Holding those in power at Carrow Road to account is the duty which goes with my job and the absolute focus of all football fans for their respective clubs.
But finding a way to bite your tongue or deal with a hiding from Manchester City in a positive way could prove so crucial to keeping spirits up for the games which are winnable.
Those thrashing have happened to much better teams and much bigger clubs, just ask loan keeper Ralf Fahrmann, he was on the wrong end of a 10-2 loss to Pep Guardiola's lavishly funded superstars with Schalke - in the Champions League.
Or ask Arsenal who were thumped 5-1 by Liverpool on their way to finishing fifth in the Premier League, or try West Ham, Newcastle or Bournemouth, who were all sunk 4-0 by the Reds but finished with the mid-table safety which the Canaries now crave.
My point is not to take the fun out of it, I'm confident there will be some extremely memorable matches under Farke's leadership this season. It's just not to lose the plot when things go wrong.
It's at those dark times that the players will need supporters more than ever, to be reminded that what has been created in the last two years at City is something special, that defeats to teams funded by billionaires will not break the bonds forged by swashbuckling Championship success that saw these players prove they have real backbone.
Roaring back to beat Millwall and Bolton in injury-time, somehow recovering from 3-0 down amid Boxing Day chaos against Forest, Mario Vrancic saving the day against Wednesday, Farke winking at the camera as Paul Lambert was held back by a police officer during derby day triumph. Those are the moments which must endure.
Keep a bit of that magic dust in the air and with the mixture of little pressure or expectation, the attacking intent and slick passing style which Farke has introduced can beat the likes of Brighton, Burnley or Southampton. Results against those teams are where survival will be decided.
Facing Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in the first five games means having those coping strategies in place could be needed sooner or later - a baptism of fire may await.
The odds are in City's favour though. Eight of the last 10 Championship title winners have survived their first season back in the top flight.
Whether that's thanks to momentum or strong foundations, it proves survival can be achieved.
Where will City finish? 15th
Who will win the title? Manchester City
Who will be relegated? Brighton, Burnley, Sheffield United
- Pick up a copy of today's Eastern Daily Press or Norwich Evening News for a 32-page preview supplement ahead of the new season