Pep Guardiola says he will not apologise for urging more Manchester City supporters to attend Saturday’s match against Southampton.
An attendance of 38,062 watched City’s 6-3 win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday, and afterwards Guardiola said the club “need” more supporters to attend Saturday’s 3pm kick-off against Southampton at the 55,000-seater Etihad Stadium.
The comments irked the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, Kevin Parker, who said Guardiola should “stick” to coaching as he “doesn’t understand the difficulties” supporters face.
Parker also pointed out City’s two Premier League home attendances so far this season, against Norwich (51,437) and Arsenal (52,276), have been close to capacity.
In response, Guardiola said: “Did I say after the game that I was disappointed that the stadium was not full? An interpretation is an interpretation.
“I am not going to apologise for what I said. What I said was we need the support. It doesn’t matter how many people come but I invite them to come and enjoy the game because we need the support.”
He added: “I am entirely grateful for the support that we had against Leipzig.
“I always say if guys want to come we will be incredibly grateful because I know how difficult the game will be and I know we need our people.
“I never sit here and ask why people don’t come. If you can’t come then don’t.”
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‘Maybe he should stick to coaching’
Parker called on Guardiola to be more considerate of circumstances for home fans.
“[What he said] did surprise me,” Parker said. “I’m not sure what that’s got to do with him. He doesn’t understand the difficulties that some people might have getting to a game at the Etihad on a Wednesday evening at 8pm.
“They’ve got kids to think of, they might not be able to afford it, [and] there are still some Covid issues about. I don’t see why he comments on it.
“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that.
“It just takes the edge off what was a good night. People are talking more about Pep’s comments than a fantastic game. To question the support, which is effectively what he is doing, is disappointing and uncalled for.
“It does also play into the hands of supporters from other teams who want to take every opportunity to have a go at City for what they think are the poor attendances.
“People refer to the Etihad as the ‘Emptyhad’. It’s a little bit of fun by the opposition supporters but there’s no justification for it. It’s not factual. Our attendances are generally excellent.”
After a resounding victory in their opening Champions League group game, Guardiola said: “I would like more people to come to the next game on Saturday.
“We will need the people next Saturday, please, because we will be tired. I invite all our people to come next Saturday, 3pm, and watch the game.”
His comments further confused Parker because of their two home attendances against Norwich and Arsenal.
“Of course he would want a full house but I don’t know why he would question whether we’d have one against Southampton on Saturday. It is a different scenario,” Parker said.
“We have played two Saturday home games and the stadium – from a City perspective at least, Norwich didn’t sell their full allocation – was full on both occasions.
“I don’t think anybody anywhere within the club should be questioning the loyalty of the supporters. It is frustrating.”