It’s been a rollercoaster ride.
But Manchester City have finally reached the pinnacle of European football – competing in their Champions League final.
They take on Chelsea in the showpiece game, regarded as the biggest in club football, at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto, Portugal on Saturday night.
It represents another milestone in their ascent back to the top, and will be an emotional moment for scores of Blues fans who have supported the club through thick and thin.
And nothing typifies that more than the fans behind two now-famous press pictures of City fans from key points of their history.
And the descendant of one, and the man featured in the other, have told the Manchester Evening News that lifting the European Cup on Saturday night would be their best moment of their City supporting lives.
A ‘CITY GENT’ AND HIS GRANDSON
Of course, tomorrow’s game is not City’s first European final.
The Blues famously won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Vienna in 1970 during the glory days of the 60s and 70s which saw Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison leading of team which contained club legends such as Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee.
Back when air travel was much more of an expensive luxury, the Blues still took around 4,000 fans over to the Austrian capital for the final against Polish side Gornik Zabrze.
One of those was die-hard Blues fan, the late Richard Merrin, from Timperley.
He was snapped in a bowler hat, reading a copy of the Financial Times in the departure lounge of what was then Manchester’s Ringway Airport, as he waited to board his flight to Vienna.
The picture then featured on the front of the Manchester Evening News as they reported on the Blue army travelling out for the game.
And 41 years on, Mr Merrin’s grandson, Richard Savage, 46, who is named after him, bought a copy of the paper and recreated the shot as he waited to board his flight to Portugal to watch the Blues what is their first European final since then.
City won the 1970 final 2-1 with goals from Francis Lee and Neil Young and Richard hopes he can be a similar lucky charm on Saturday.
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Mr Savage, who’s mum Rosemary was Mr Merrin’s daughter, and who’s own father died when he was just 11, said his grandad played a pivotal role in him becoming such a passionate Blue.
“We moved down to Hertfordshire from Stockport when I was around two or three so I was a bit of an outlier down here being a City fan in the 80s and 90s.
“But my favourite part of the week was that he would send me the Football Pink in the post, and it was great when that used to arrive on the Monday or Tuesday.
“He would also ring me in the week and tell me any City news he’d read in the paper.
“My mum was also great and took me all over the country watching country when I was younger and couldn’t drive.
“And i’ve been a season ticket holder for 22 years now”
Mr Savage recreated the picture as he waited to board his flight to Portugal from Luton Airport on Thursday with son David, six and partner Natalia.
“My grandad always used to tell us he’d been on the front of the Evening News and we used to say ‘yeah whatever..’
“But a few years ago now my auntie who has emigrated to Canada was over and she found it in the archives.
“So we’ve been aware of it for a while.
“And as soon as we got the final and I knew I was going I knew had to do it.
“Obviously fashions have changed a bit – I’m not wearing a bowler hat!
“But there’s a real symmetry to it and it was really, really nice. feeling doing it.”
Mr Merrin sadly died in 1998 when City were languishing in Division Two. However, Mr Savage says his grandfather always predicted they would get back to the top and would be looking down on Saturday night.
“He was always an optimist,” he said.
“He used to say, don’t worry, it’ll all work out, we’ll get bought by a Sheikh or something and we just used to laugh at him really and say ‘yeah alright.’
“Now 21 years later it’s all come to fruition.
“And he would absolutely love it. I just can’t wait to get in the ground now, I’ve got so much nervous anticipation.
“But it’s more than the game. It’s the whole experience. That’s why I’ve brought my son just so he can experience it.
“Winning tomorrow would just be the crowning glory.”
TEARS COULD BECOME TEARS OF JOY
It’s a picture that literally typifies City’s lowest moment.
Two City fans sat in the stands what was then the Britannia Stadium in Stoke in 1998, head in hands, as the Blues tumbled into the third tier of English football for the first time.
It has subsequently been used dozens of times in newspapers and online as part of pieces of charting the Blues topsy turvy journey.
And one of the fans snapped that day says a win tomorrow would be ‘the pinnacle.’
Andy Awarenko, now 41, from Wythenshawe, pictured in a light coloured jacket on the right, was 17 at the time and had travelled to Stoke with his pal Dave Leary, pictured in a replica shirt on the left.
City needed to win and hope other results went their way to avoid the drop into what was then Division Two.
They won 5-2 but other results did not go their way and along with Stoke they saw themselves slip to a third relegation in two seasons.
“We had probably been going to the away games for a couple of years before that. But it seemed like the more we followed them, the worse we got” Andy said. “Probably the same as most City fans of our age.
“And that was one of just many memorable days.
“The picture was taken just after the final whistle and that’s when it became real to us really. We’d won the game convincingly but then it hit you the results hadn’t gone our way and that was that.
“It was a tough pill to swallow.
“We didn’t know the picture had been taken initially. It may well have been broadcast earlier but I think the first time I was aware of it was probably about six months later, in one of the newspapers.
“I thought it was quite funny. I’d never had my picture in the paper before so it was quite novel..
“Throughout the years it has been used again and again. Especially now with social media. Every time we get beat it seems to pop up again.
“A lot of my mates have a lot of fun ribbing me about it.
“But especially now it’s a really nice memory to see where we’ve come from.”
Andy and Dave carried on watching the Blues and says Lincoln away the following season was their lowest point.
“We got beat, missed the last train and ended up sleeping at the train station,” Andy said. “So that’s a really strong memory.
“A song, King of Rock N Roll by Prefab Sprout was on constant rewind being played on the tannoy so we listened to it all night. every time I hear that now I have a little chuckle.”
However, things soon started to look up and Andy was at Wembley later that season as the Blues scored twice in extra time against Gillingham in the Play-Off final before winning on penalties to win promotion.
“I was one of the many that were ready to leave. I’d just got to the top of the stairs when we pulled one back so I ran back down and found a seat somewhere” Andy said.
He also describes the game away at Blackburn the following season where the Blues clinched promotion a second time as one of his all-time favourite Blues games. Andy was one of the scores of fans without tickets who ended up watching on a nearby hill which had a view of the stadium.
He says Sergio Aguero’s title winner in 2012 pips it as his favourite City moment so far.
But he said victory tomorrow would top the lot.
“It’s the pinnacle,” he said. “It’s what everybody dreams of.
“We’ve won a good number of titles now so just getting the monkey off our backs would be incredible.
“Who knows I may even cry again but this time tears of joy. It’s possible. I don’t want to tempt fate though.
“I just think being through what we’ve been through just makes you appreciate this even more.
“And I don’t think any City fan will take what’s happening now for granted.
“We’ve been to the lowest of the low so to be where we are now, we’re just enjoying it all.”