big gaff | 

Man City fans hit back at Pep Guardiola's bizarre plea for more spectators to turn up at 'Emptyhad'

Parker feels the remarks from Pep Guardiola in a TV interview were uncalled for (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Kevin Palmer

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been used to winning in his time at the club, but he hit on a raw nerve when he urged more fans to show up to support his team in Saturday's Premier League game against Southampton.

Despite City's great success in recent years, their domestic fan base in England is still substantially lower than rivals like Manchester United, Liverpool and even Chelsea.

That much was confirmed as a modest crowned showed up for their Champions League opener against RB Leipzig on Wednesday night, with Guardiola possibly unaware of the ridicule City fans face for their lack of support when he made these unprompted comments.

“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.”

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