We are Premier League! What Norwich City's promotion means to the fans
PUBLISHED: 09:14 28 April 2019
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I feel I speak for every Norwich City fan from far and wide when I say there is very little that compares to this feeling.
After what has been one of the greatest seasons in living memory, we can finally say Norwich City are a Premier League team in waiting once more.
While it has only taken three seasons for City to bounce back to where we all feel we belong, it has truly felt like an eternity since we last stepped foot in the top tier.
Even with this having been within touching distance for the past few weeks, up until now there has always been that little inkling of worry that somewhere - somehow - it wouldn't happen.
However, the jubilation of knowing that next season we will once again be playing Premier League football compares with no other feeling.
Just what this means to everybody involved with the football club just can not be understated.
For some of these players, being able to ply their trade at the highest level must have been beyond their wildest dreams.
Take Christoph Zimmermann, who less than three years ago was juggling the German fourth division with filling out university application forms ahead of packing in the game.
Or what about Onel Hernandez? Would the little Cuban dreamer who loved playing with birds ever have pictured himself in the Premier League?
Or Emi Buendia, the lad who learned the game on the mean streets of Argentina and will next season be lining up against the very best.
How about Mario Vrancic - the refugee who fled his war-stricken homeland in hope of finding a better life. He now finds himself a Premier League player.
And this is just one of the things that makes this achievement all the more special. With the odd exception, none of the current crop have been there, seen it and done it.
What we have now, is a team that is together far greater than the sum of its parts. A delightful cocktail of youngsters with nothing to lose, misfits who have rediscovered their way and written-off talents with something to prove.
But this is about far more than what it means to those terrific individuals, whose hard work, graft and natural talent has led us to where we are now.
This is about the thousands of City fans who week-in and week-out turn out to watch their beloved Canaries, whatever the circumstances.
Few clubs in the world could boast attendances of more than 25,000 in the third tier - but we did that just a decade ago.
Few clubs would have sent more than 5,000 fans to a midday game on a Sunday, hundreds of miles away. We did that.
Make no mistake, everything about the fans of this club screams Premier League - and this is what now awaits us.
So what makes this promotion any different to the other times City have clawed their way out of the Premier League? It's the fact that none of us really expected it to happen.
After the last relegation, we all knew that if we failed to bounce back at first time, it would be a long old haul to get back there.
We knew the decision had been made to have a complete overhaul of the way the club was being run and were told to expect a period of transition - the buzz phrase that went around like wildfire just over a year and a bit ago.
Last season went how most of us expected it to go and, in heart of hearts, not many of us expected this year to be much different.
Over the summer we parted company with one of the most promising young talents to wear the yellow shirt in James Maddison and one of the club's all time greats in Wes Hoolahan.
We had also just come off the back of one of the most ordinary campaigns in recent memory too - a season in which even Ipswich finished ahead of us.
Our line was to be led by a free transfer who did nothing at Celtic and nobody really knew what to expect from this Argentinian lad who had just been relegated in the Spanish second division.
Perhaps the more optimistic of us - and I include myself in that - might have thought we'd have scraped into the play-offs. And even in making that prediction, I was doing so with my heart above my head - which said we'd finish 11th.
It harks back to the title-winning season under Nigel Worthington, which was so special because of how few people expected us to be a proper force.
Under Paul Lambert we were riding the crest of a wave, having walked League One.
Under Alex Neil, we were the relegated favourites for promotion.
This time, we have been the surprise package, which makes it all the more sweeter.
And all this comes before we can even address what it means to us - the fans.
Even the simplest of footballing joys - Match of the Day - is made all the better by our presence.
Sure, any football fan enjoys watching it anyway, but how much more fun will it be seeing a quarter-of-a-second of Teemu Pukki shoe-horned into the opening credits?
How much more fun will it be complaining on Twitter about the fact that - yet again - we have to wait until after midnight for the three minutes of our game - unless it somehow turns into an eight-goal thriller which can go on fourth.
But we wouldn't have it any other way - last on Match of the Day trumps being squeezed in after an Alan Partridge's military-based quiz show on some cable channel.
But most of all, the one thing you have to do to see how much this means is open your eyes. Look around you - for you will see splashes of yellow across the city, smiles on faces and that extra spring in the steps of the whole region.
On the ball, City. On the ball.