Melissa Rudd: These wonderful few days need to be the beginning of the good times for City... and not the end

City fans salute their heroes in front of City Hall. Picture: Denise Bradley

City fans salute their heroes in front of City Hall. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

“I didn’t expect that level of performance from the players…”

Given that after a week of what looked like serious partying Norwich City still managed to win and clinch the title at Villa Park, you'd be forgiven for thinking the above could be the start of a sentence uttered by Daniel Farke.

"Performances like that are the reason we've been relegated," were the words that followed. Bryan Gunn's post-match comments after Norwich surrendered at The Valley a decade ago to drop down to the third tier of English football summed up a season of misery.

So much has happened in those 10 years yet I can still remember that feeling of emptiness when trudging out of the ground like it was yesterday.

At the time it felt like Norwich hadn't just been relegated to League One, but that the soul had fallen out of the football club. The mood exacerbated by the fact that Norwich's performance on a day they simply had to win, was as Gunny pointed out, pitiful.

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After being 3-0 down within half an hour against a team whose relegation had already been confirmed, there had been a steady stream of fury and vitriol from the fans who decided to remain in the ground until the bitter end that afternoon. I've only heard the chant of "You're not fit to wear the shirt" a handful of times in my 22 years of watching City, mainly after abject away performances. I can only hope to never again hear it shouted so emphatically.

If few could have predicted the turnaround this season, even fewer would have dared to dream Norwich would be celebrating a return to the Premier League two years after there had been so much gloom surrounding the long-term future of the club back in 2009.

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Yet many of the next generation of Norwich fans watching their heroes lift the Championship trophy aloft on the City Hall balcony on Monday would be far too young to remember such dark days.

Those of us who can had celebrated in the same streets five years prior to relegation from the Championship when Nigel Worthington masterminded a league title in 2004. We need no reminding that the club's fortunes can turn on their head pretty quickly, in either direction.

That's what has made the last few months an even more incredible ride, and the last few weeks an absolute joy.

Having won promotion four times in the last 10 seasons those outside Norfolk have been keen to label City a yo-yo club. Perhaps most of us would happily take that. As has been said many times before, the journey is often much more enjoyable than the destination. The trouble with that is there is never a guarantee of coming back up again once you've gone down.

This time though, it feels like Norwich have the structure in place to take the opportunity to not just make up the numbers in the Premier League but to compete, and eventually cement themselves as a top tier club.

In the aftermath of that 2008-09 campaign, Delia Smith said: "The big lesson everyone has to learn is that football has sold itself to money."

There may be some truth in that statement but in the past year City have proved it's not about how much you have but how you spend it that matters most.

Delia and Michael Wynn Jones took a lot of criticism back then, but have rightfully been afforded the same amount of praise for the club's remarkable achievements this season.

Plenty of us were doubters, justifiably after such a mediocre first campaign, but their appointment of Stuart Webber and subsequently Farke have been the catalyst for a truly astonishing season.

As 'On The Ball, City' rung out from a sea of fans in yellow and green on Monday, we're all united in forever being thankful to the Class of 2019 for a season we won't forget. Now it's key that it marks the beginning of the good times and not the end.

Never mind the danger….

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