Lee Payne: So, when the going gets tough, stay with the plan
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Last season was alright, wasn’t it?
Norwich City winning the Championship title, playing the opposition off the park, our players constantly being showered with awards. It couldn't really have gone much better.
For me, personally, since around November last year - when City beat Millwall 4-3 having gone into stoppage time behind and I just got the feeling something special was brewing - I've been riding a wave of sporting euphoria. My football team got promoted to the Premier League and my other great love, the England cricket team, won the World Cup.
Now the signings have been made, the pre-season friendlies played and we're in the Premier League - the place everyone wants to be, the league that's so hard to get into and even harder to stay in.
I get the feeling my euphoria is about to end.
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It's going to be tough. People will tell you that I'm a pessimist, but I prefer to think that I am a realist. I honestly believe that Norwich will stay up, but I think it'll be a close-run thing. We've been here before, and the novelty of being in the top flight soon wears off and it can become quite the slog.
Let's look at the last time we were promoted. It was in 2015 and it was through the play-offs. In January we looked like we wouldn't get anywhere near going up. Add that fact to the fantastic day we got to experience at Wembley and I think we were all a little bit more jubilant than usual. Alex Neil was the great find. He was going to establish us as a Premier League club. Then on the opening day Cameron Jerome's brilliant overhead kick got ruled out against Crystal Palace, we lost the game and we realised that things were going to be against us.
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A couple of months later we lost 6-2 at Newcastle and never recovered. The last time we won the Championship (though it was still called Division One then) was in 2004. Back at the top table for the first time in nearly a decade, we were excited about being amongst the big boys again, but we didn't win an away game all season, lost 6-0 at Fulham on the final day and were back down again.
We must understand that it isn't going to go our way a lot of the time and we have to get behind the players as much as we can. Even when it feels despondent, like it is the right time to let out your anger from the stands. Our players will need us more than ever in those moments - they will have enough going against them without their own fans turning on them too.
This is not to say that the whole season will be doom and gloom and that we might as well not bother.
Even in that last Premier League season we had results like a win at Old Trafford to enjoy. And I genuinely believe we are better equipped to survive this time than we were then. It's just a fact that there tends to be a period in darkest winter when promoted clubs start to reminisce about the glory days in the Championship, and I'm urging everyone to stick with the club at that time.
Having said all that, if it doesn't go well, spare a thought for fans of clubs like Bury, Notts County and Coventry. Bury are so strapped for cash that their first match of the season was called off. Notts County can't afford to pay for this season's kit. Coventry fans are having to go to Birmingham's St Andrews to watch their team play home games. They all love their clubs as much as we love Norwich City. And they would all gladly be in our position.
So come on then, Norwich - let's see what you've got.
Where will City finish? 14th or 15th
Who will win the title? Manchester City
Which three teams will be relegated? Sheffield United, Brighton, Newcastle