Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has been urged to stick to team matters after sparking another debate about attendances at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola called on supporters to turn out in force for the champions’ Premier League clash with Southampton on Saturday in a TV interview following Wednesday’s victory over RB Leipzig.
His unprompted comments may have been well-intentioned but they have irked some City fans who feel they have led to an unfair questioning of their loyalty.
“I would like more people to come to the next game on Saturday,” Guardiola told BT Sport after the 6-3 victory at the Etihad Stadium, which attracted a crowd of 38,062.
“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.”
City’s attendances for Champions League home games, which do not always sell out, are often used as a stick to beat the club with by rival fans.
Yet there are many reasons why tickets are unsold and Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, feels Guardiola has unnecessarily inflamed the situation.
“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.”
Adding to Parker’s bemusement is that he would have expected a big crowd on Saturday anyway.
He said: “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.
“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.”