Despite a difficult start to life under Michael O'Neill, when the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign kicked off in September 2014, Northern Ireland dared to dream.
It had been 30 years since the nation last reached a major tournament but the message was clear - aim high.
Less than two years after that ambition was realised in the most spectacular style, a young Luton-born left-back would work his way into O'Neill's senior squad.
"I felt comfortable instantly," says Norwich star Jamal Lewis, who made his senior international debut during the 2-1 friendly win over South Korea in March 2018.
As he offers an insight into his attitudes, his hopes and his dreams, it isn't hard to see why he slotted in seamlessly.
Just as O'Neill had by then taught the Green and White Army to do, Lewis aims high.
He will, all being well, be named in the starting side when Norwich return to Premier League action at home to Southampton on Friday.
The Canaries go into their last nine games bottom of the pile and six points from safety.
I would love to play Champions League and I feel like definitely within a couple of years I'll be at a quality where I'm able to do that.
Hopes of achieving their goal seem slight. But then, the same could have been said about Northern Ireland back in 2014.
"We know it's going to be tough but we all believe," he says, knowing better form is required as Norwich went into the break having picked up just four points from their previous six games.
"Maybe the pause in the season was that slight mental break we needed.
"We've assessed and tweaked a few things that we think can help us prepare and improve. We're going in with the same mentality but a fresh mindset.
"I'm confident that we'll be able to pick up a few points and once we can claw our way back up to the other teams, anything can happen."
Those three words form a mantra that Lewis sticks to when he looks beyond the coming nine matches.
Having turned 22 in January, he has almost a full career ahead of him.
No disrespect to his current employers, but expectations from outside Carrow Road are that in the seasons to come, the player may outgrow the club.
He won't say that so explicitly himself, nor should he.
But with both of last season's Champions League finalists Liverpool and Tottenham having been linked over the course of the season, he's open enough to admit the top European stage is the one he has in sight.
"Everyone personally wants to get to the highest level they can," says Lewis, speaking in a confident manner that matches his clearly thought out plans.
"My main task and my main goal right now is to stay in the Premier League with Norwich. I'm fully focused on that.
"But I would love to play Champions League and I feel like definitely within a couple of years I'll be at a quality where I'm able to do that. I've got a taste of the Premier League this year and I want to play in this league week in, week out for the rest of my career.
"Everyone has their individual goals that they set and those are a few of mine. I intend to hit them."
Another one is success on the international stage.
He's just a couple of play-off games from helping Northern Ireland to the Euro 2020 finals. Needless to say, it's an opportunity he's not intending to let slip past.
"I've spoken to a few of the boys, ones who play at the top level, and they've said Euro 2016 was the best experience of their careers," he smiles. "For them to say that, having played in Champions Leagues, Premier Leagues week in, week out, it makes your mouth salivate. I want to do that."
Lewis qualifies for Northern Ireland through his Belfast-born mum Catrina.
His childhood involved regular trips across the Irish Sea to visit family and, as such, he says any decision over his international path was more straightforward than you might imagine.
"My mum made sure I was close to her side of the family so I went over to see them quite a lot," he recalls.
"I have an attachment there. I feel Northern Irish. It was kind of a no-brainer. It wasn't a thinking process.
"I'm a very logical thinker but I also go with my heart and my heart told me to play for Northern Ireland. It's been a great journey since."
It presents, he admits, a chance for personal development, for pressing on step by step towards those ultimate goals.
"It's good to be in a different team environment and learn how that feels," he explains.
"Playing next to Jonny Evans is a great opportunity as well. I pick his mind to see what I can improve on."
It should be little surprise that Lewis' unmistakable motivation is not limited to football.
As such, he saw the Premier League pause as a chance to enrol in a financial course offered by derivatives trading company OSTC.
"I was clearing my emails and saw that they were offering it to players through the LFE (League Football Education) and the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association)," he says.
"It's always been something I've been interested in. I've always been into finance and long-term investments but I haven't had much knowledge of stocks.
"I'm just trying to get plenty of strings to my bow. It's always good to task yourself with other things because it would be easy just to stay in the football bubble.
"This period of time has been almost good to take yourself out of it and see other areas you'd like to address in life."
It helped Lewis to ensure his weeks of lockdown were fruitful. He also relished a daily fitness programme, honed his keen cooking abilities with some new vegan dishes to try out and spent time with those closest to him, having moved back in with his family when the season was suspended.
Not long before then, he had bagged only the second goal of his senior career, a smashing half-volley across the keeper and into the bottom corner. It earned a 1-0 win over Leicester and was set up by his opposite wing-back Max Aarons.
"The ironic thing is that I was not having a good game at all," he laughs, an example of his admittedly self-critical nature.
"You know when your timing is off, you're reading the game all wrong and you're giving it away? It almost got erased in one small moment, which is crazy.
"Now I know how strikers feel; they don't have a great game but they put it away and everyone forgets.
"Max and I had been talking about how we needed to add more stats to our game; get some assists and goals. That was a great moment for us and gave us a taste for more.
"It was great to have a clean sheet and win the game but it was more than that; it gave the fans hope. In a season in which they haven't had a lot to cheer about, it's a moment they'll remember."
Now the aim is to seal a few more of those, survival for Norwich City and from there, anything can happen.
"We want the fans to look back at us as a great team who got out of a tough situation and stayed in the league," he concludes.
Jamal Lewis is daring to dream.