Manchester City fans have told Pep Guardiola to 'stick to football' after being disappointed by his criticism of the club's home support.
Guardiola pleaded that his team will "need" a bigger presence at the Etihad against Southampton on Saturday after seeing 38,000 fans turn up out of a possible 55,000 for the 6-3 Champions League win over RB Leipzig.
"I would like more people to come to the next game on Saturday," the City boss told BT Sport after the resounding midweek victory.
"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 have long been mocked by opposition supporters for failing to sell out the Etihad for midweek Champions League ties, but Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, believes Guardiola should have been more sensitive with his comments.
"It did surprise me," Parker told PA Media. “I’m not sure what that’s got to do with him.
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"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."
Despite their inability to sell out in the Champions League, City regularly draw huge crowds in the Premier League, adding to Parker's confusion as to why Guardiola would make such comments ahead of the weekend's match.
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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."
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