For Manchester City fans of almost all ages, the Champions League final on Saturday is the culmination of a remarkable journey.
Younger supporters have enjoyed an exhilarating ride over the last 13 years, with the club’s takeover by Sheikh Mansour fuelling a dramatic ascent to the top of the game that has already brought five Premier League titles.
Those a bit older will recall the woes of the years immediately preceding all that, with the nadir being the relegation to the third tier that left them facing an uncertain financial future in 1998.
“When we won the League Cup in 1976 and were runners-up to Liverpool by one point in 1977, I thought football was only going to get better and better,” said Kevin Parker, 60, general secretary of City’s Official Supporters Club and a season-ticket holder since 1973.
“The reality was it didn’t. It just got worse! But I have been on that journey and it’s been great.
“I wouldn’t have changed that ride. I wouldn’t swap any of those 35 years when we didn’t win a trophy for anybody else’s success because it was great. It was a fantastic journey.
“I don’t still want to be on it – to be fair – but we’ve had the best of both worlds.”
Had that not happened then financial difficulties could have jeopardised the move from Maine Road to what is now the Etihad Stadium, and that in turn might have prevented the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008.
“Of course I’d say this but what makes City one of the most interesting clubs is that the worst period in their history was in living memory for the majority of fans,” said David Mooney, 33, host of the Blue Moon podcast.
“It’s only 23 years they were starting a season in the third tier. You can’t get away from the fact they have spent a lot of money, and they wouldn’t be where they are now without the investment from Sheikh Mansour, but the fans that endured that season in the third tier have done the hard yards.
“It’s for those people I am most happy.”
Parker is keen to point out this is a misunderstanding of supporters’ grievances with European governing body UEFA.
He told the PA news agency: “People have this belief that City fans don’t like the Champions League but that’s not true. It’s UEFA we don’t like.
“The Champions League, as a competition, is one of those things we’ve always wanted to compete in, get to a final and win it.
“We are in the final now and it is very exciting. We are looking forward to going and we are in with a great chance. That seems like an unbelievable position to be in.”