"I’m still the typical City brigade," says Steve Cunningham. "I can see us going to Cheltenham in the FA Cup and getting turned over. I’m still like that now.
"That’s all I’ve known but the last 15-20 years is the most successful period in our time. I wouldn't change it, I remember the FA Cup in 2011 was the first thing I’d seen us win in living memory. I remember shedding a tear saying ‘even if they don’t win anything else after this I can die happy because I’ve seen us win something’."
Fast forward nearly ten years from that memorable day at Wembley when Yaya Toure smashed home for Manchester City's first trophy in generations, and the club have lifted ten more major trophies (or thirteen if, like Pep Guardiola, you count the Community Shield).
For fans like Steve, 47, every trophy is a bonus. The sheer quality on the Etihad pitch has hardened fans who were there in Division Three and before literally speechless.
"We’ve said while Pep’s here we need to go to every single game, this brand of football won’t be around forever," he tells the MEN.
"When he’s gone we won’t play like that anymore. That Centurion season, we’re pinching ourselves looking at each other with our mouths open saying ‘is this our club?’"
However, for Dan Cohen, 23, this IS his club.
He was always going to be a blue, and regularly started going to matches with his family in 2007 - a year before the club's transformational takeover by Sheikh Mansour.
He says: "You can notice a difference in ambition from fans depending on their age. I agree with Pep when he says we need to compete for all trophies, all the time, every season on all four fronts.
"If we have a disappointing cup performance or Champions League exit my dad and grandma will say ‘it’s not so bad, look how far we’ve come, back in my day and all that’. I’ll clash heads and think if that’s where we need to be and that’s where the club’s ambitions lie, then we’ve got to spend like the European giants to get the right players in if we want to compete and not slide backwards.
"Some of the older fans would say we don’t have to win everything all the time - we never used to win everything so it’s nice to win one too. I counter that by saying we don’t want to go the same way as Chelsea who had a good purple patch and then step away from the top end of the league for four or five years.
"That’s where we’d go if it was going to go wrong so I’m worried about that. They enjoy it for what it is and there’s a differing attitude there."
Both Steve and Dan support the same Manchester City with the same history, but their experiences couldn't be more different.
"I was a season ticket holder for 20 years on the Kippax," explains Steve. "When I was little, my dad used to sit me on a wall on one of the tunnels at Maine Rone that the toilets were, because I could see. The same group of people used to stand in the same area, so my dad used to stand and I wasn’t so far away from him and he could always keep his eye on me.
"It was weird because he stopped going because he used to referee on a Saturday so I’d go on my own or with friends. I’d always gravitate back to that same spot where I’d always stood on the Kippax. I felt like I grew up with this group of people who stood in the same spot every week. I knew a few names but not all of them.
"Then when I passed my test at 17, there was four or five of my mates who were all big Blues and we started following them all over the shop. I’ve been to Swindon and Lincoln when we’ve been right in the depths of being absolutely terrible.
"That’s when City were my true love. When we were s***, I was following them up and down the country. It was never about the football or about ‘we’re watching this s***’. It was more ‘this is my club, this is my team’ I don’t care if they win, lose or draw, I love them for who they are. I’ll continue to follow them win, lose or draw up and down the country. That’s what we did.
"But you never see the same faces now. That was the thing about standing, you could always go and stand in the same spot. I have still got mates who have season tickets but I have family commitments and can’t commit. The lads I used to go home and away still sit together and still see the same faces. It’s lost that, it’s quite sterile but if that means families can go and it’s more attainable for everybody I’m all for that.
"Football’s changed, times have changed. I remember going to Elland Road 30 years ago and it was horrible, being absolutely scared out of my head. The edginess. It’s gone, but it’s beneficial for the common fan."
Steve, and thousands of others, stuck by City when they were, as the chant goes, not particularly good. That experience has stuck with the older generation of Blues supporters, while the younger crowd have been treated to record-breaking, world-class football in a modern stadium and regular away days across Europe.
Steve continues: "When that shower over the road had a really good period, I was super jealous at the time because, and still to this day, because the way they did it I was quite envious of. Bringing through the ‘Fergie Fledglings’ and promoting from within and they had this fantastic team, went and won everything.
"While they were doing that we were so in the shadows and the amount of s*** we took off Reds throughout that period. Nowadays I don’t pay it back. I just think we could be shit again and it could come back and bite me.
"When Blackburn did it and Chelsea did it, I thought I didn’t want us to do that, I’d much rather us promote from within and have world beating players to produce and coach and nurture. Obviously Shinawatra came in and did his little bit and then the Sheikh came in and it’s all changed, everything’s changed."
Having seen other clubs throw money at the playing squad to win titles, Steve says he has mixed feelings about City's current spending model, while accepting that is what is needed to compete for Premier League titles these days. He would still prefer 'Ronnie Foden' or Tosin Adarabioyo brought through the ranks and given a chance before going out and spending £60m on someone like Aymeric Laporte or Rodri.
For Dan, who has only really known the Sheikh Mansour era, he is more open to the ownership of Sheikh Mansour and those big-money signings.
"I couldn’t say a bad thing about the owners," he said. "The model seems to work. From where we’ve come from as a club and where we’re going it’s great, not really moving too far off the mark.
"Transfer policy largely is good, we’ve moved away from signing Mangala’s to signing Ruben Dias which has sorted out the defence and it’s looking like it’s going the right direction on the pitch this season. I think what Sheikh Mansour has done for the club is fantastic, all the work they put into City in the Community here and around the world, you can’t argue with that objectively good work they’re doing.
"Investing in the local area, expanding the stadium, it gives you the confidence that they are in it for the long haul, they’re here to stay rather than coming in and trying to sell it on. You get all sorts of dodgy owners and think thank God it’s not us."
The level of expectation is one of the more striking differences between the generations of City fans, and that could maybe be explained in part by Steve and Dan's first experiences of going to City.
While Steve followed City home and away for 20 years, with a season ticket on the Kippax, Dan rarely gets to away games as despite his family having season tickets for years, the points system for away games is not designed for the younger generation.
Still, Dan's main memories of being a Blue are watching Joe Hart produce a masterclass to deny Lionel Messi in the Champions League and an iconic Leroy Sane performance in Germany . Steve points back to an awful away defeat at Swindon and almost missing the comeback of all comebacks against Gillingham.
We asked both fans some quickfire questions comparing their experiences of supporting City in 2021.
When was your first game?
Steve: My first recollection of a City game was about eight years old, but my mum says my old man took me when I was three so that will have been 1975/76. I’ve got no idea what my first game was. I just remember us being absolutely bobbins and all of these footballers who weren’t very good.
Dan:My first match was a pre-season friendly against Oldham at Boundary Park in 2003, we won 6-1 or 6-0, Anelka scored.
What is your matchday routine?
Steve: We get the train into town from Stockport, have something to eat and drink and we walk up the canal to the ground, watch the game, walk back down the canal, get back on the train. It’s like an event. When I was young and we were in Moss Side, we’d drive to the Curry Mile, park up there, and walk down Claremont Road. I miss that, the event of having a full day out.
Dan: We had three season tickets between the four of us for a while and rotated and a few years ago we got a fourth one so we all go together. It’s a big part of the family life. It brings us all together no matter what. We all go in my dad’s car, park up, get some fish and chips outside the ground, maybe get a drink inside, sit and watch the football and go home.
Who was your favourite player growing up?
Steve: It’s David Silva now, but probably Dennis Tueart. I used to love him when I was young.
Dan: Pre-money it was Shaun Goater. I’ve still got one of those little shirts you stuck in car windows with ‘GOATER 10’. Modern day, it’s Aguero, it’s got to be.
Who was your most disliked rival player?
Steve: Mark Hughes. Hated Mark Hughes but I met him a couple of years ago and he’s a lovely bloke. I hated the way he played football, but I was alright when he became manager because he’d left United. But I hated Mark Hughes and Bryan Robson.
Dan: I want to say Ashley Young because he’s a diving cheat.
Who are Manchester City's biggest rivals?
Steve: Now, Liverpool. It was always United but they’ve been so s*** and we’ve been so great I’ve found them largely insignificant in the past few years.
Dan: It’s got to be United. Don’t let me hear anyone say it’s Liverpool because we’re competing with them. It’s United. If they’ve got the word Manchester infront of the name, they’re your rivals.
Who is your favourite City manager?
Steve: It’s Pep, all day. Got to be Pep. Mancini comes close but I like Pep as a man as well as a football manager.
Dan: I’ve got to say Mancini, he really brought us up a level and was iconic in that scarf.
Your best game supporting City?
Steve: Gillingham hands down. I was down the steps, I’d gone when Taylor scored for them. I thought we won’t come back from this, and then I heard us equalise and I went running back up the steps. I’d not got beyond where the stewards were and I heard the roar and thought I’m going back in.
Dan: I saw us win the FA Cup for the first time in 40-odd years at Wembley against Stoke, that Yaya goal. That’s probably the best one for what it meant for the club. I was lucky enough to get to the Champions League away day at Schalke a couple of years ago. We were down to ten men, on comes Leroy Sane and we come back and won 3-2. It was incredible. That was one of the best City games and I'd also say when Messi came and Joe Hart played brilliantly in net. We sat behind the goal and Joe Hart was incredible. He kept him out. But after seeing Yaya beat Stoke, nothing will beat that.
Your worst game supporting City?
Dan: An FA Cup away day at Blackburn Rovers in Pellegrini’s time in charge. We fielded a weak team, Dedryck Boyata played, got a red card, it was a 1-1 draw and was just a miserable day.
Where will City finish this season:
Steve: I don’t think we’ll win it. I’ll say second, second or third. It’ll be close. We’re clicking now but I don’t think we’ve got the personnel when we’ve run away with it. It’s anyone’s title and that’s a good thing, I don’t like it when someone runs away with it and it’s done by Christmas. There’s no better than when we won it on the last day, it won’t be replicated. It’s still probably the most exciting. And I wasn’t there that day, I couldn’t get a ticket.
Dan: We’ll win the league, Champions League, FA Cup, Champions League. We’ll win it all.