Pep Guardiola insists he will not apologise for urging more supporters to attend Manchester City’s Premier League clash with Southampton on Saturday.
The City boss said in midweek that he would like a bigger crowd than the 38,062 that attended Wednesday’s Champions League encounter against RB Leipzig at the Etihad Stadium.
Those comments have irritated some fans who feel the manager has questioned their loyalty but Guardiola says that is a misinterpretation of his comments.
Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, felt Guardiola’s comments were unnecessary.
“It did surprise me,” Parker told the PA news agency. “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, 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.”
In response to the backlash, Guardiola said at his press conference: “Did I say after the game against Leipzig 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 would love, and 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.”
Guardiola says he would never criticise supporters for being unable to attend matches.
He said: “I am entirely grateful for the support that we had against Leipzig. I never have the words to ask why people don’t come. If you can’t come then don’t come.
“If you want to come it’s a pleasure, if you don’t then don’t.”
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