Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he won’t apologise for urging the club’s supporters to show up in greater numbers for Saturday’s Premier League home game against Southampton.
Guardiola had commented on the thousands of empty seats at City’s 6-3 Champions League win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday, which was watched by just over 38,000 fans – well below the Etihad Stadium’s capacity of about 54,000.
Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, responded that he was surprised by the remarks and suggested Guardiola should stick to coaching, but the manager said his words were misinterpreted.
“Did I say after the game that I was disappointed that the stadium was not full? I am not going to apologise for what I said,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday.
“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. I am entirely grateful for the support that we had against Leipzig.
“I never sit here and ask why people don’t come. If you can’t come then don’t. I will not apologise to him (Parker).”
Parker, who had originally called Guardiola’s comments “disappointing and uncalled for”, had added: “He’s (Guardiola) absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that.”
Guardiola said on Friday that defenders Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, who missed the midweek Champions League win with muscle injuries, had not recovered in time for Saturday’s game, but he expected fellow centre back Nathan Ake to be available.
Guardiola described Southampton as one of the toughest opponents City faced last season and credited their improvement to manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who he faced with Bayern Munich when the Austrian led RB Leipzig to second in the Bundesliga.
“Southampton have had a long week to prepare, that’s why we need everyone together to do our best. I know our fans will be there tomorrow to support us and hopefully Mr Parker can come to watch us.”