Pep Guardiola has refused to apologise after calling for more supporters to attend Manchester City’s Premier League clash against Southampton.
The City manager irritated some fans this week by saying he would like a bigger crowd for Saturday’s match than that of 38,062 that watched Wednesday’s Champions League victory over RB Leipzig.
Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, labelled the remarks “disappointing and uncalled for” as they questioned the loyalty of fans by drawing attention to the number of empty seats.
Parker added that Guardiola should be more considerate of the reasons why people are unable to attend certain games.
Guardiola, however, insists this was not the point he was making and feels his comments have been widely misinterpreted. He says he was speaking more generally about the benefits of playing at a full house for a tough game.
Speaking at a press conference, Guardiola said: “Did I say after the game against Leipzig that I was disappointed because the stadium was not full?
“An interpretation is interpretation. I’m not going to apologise for what I said. I’m surprised about what happened with this man (Parker).
“I made an approach to do something together again on Saturday at 3pm. What I said was we would love, and need, their support. Whether it’s 10,000 people, 40,000 or 50,000 – it doesn’t matter how many people come. We need their support.
“After five seasons, if the people can’t understand my behaviour about fans it is because they want to misunderstand exactly what I said. I’m not going to apologise for one second for what I said because I was honest.
“In the last year and a half, two seasons, we have, unfortunately, done it without them and I was incredibly grateful for the support that we had the last game against Leipzig.
“If you want to join us, we will be incredibly happy if you come to see the next game against Southampton because I know how difficult (the game) will be.
“I’d prefer to be with my people than without my people but if they don’t come for any reason then it’s perfect. I never have the words to say: ‘Why didn’t you come?’”
City often do not sell out their home matches in the Champions League group stages, something which leads to ridicule from supporters of rival clubs.
Yet given City have risen rapidly over the past decade, Guardiola insists he is not expecting the club to be able to instantly emulate the more established big names in this regard instantly.
He said: “We are who we are and we are proud of who we are. I know the history, I learned the history of this club, when they were in the lower divisions and what it means to travel and follow the team. I respect that a lot.
“I don’t want to be like (Manchester) United or Liverpool, or Barcelona, or Bayern Munich, or Real Madrid, or all the big clubs.
“We are who we are and there are good and bad things at all the clubs. I like it. Don’t misunderstand or put words in my mouth that I didn’t say.”
The Catalan added he would rather step down than fall out with fans over the issue.
“I will never be a problem for the fans,” he said. “If I am a problem I will step aside. It’s not a problem, I am one of them.
“I make mistakes and I’m here to say I apologise, but in that case I will not apologise for one second what I said because I know exactly what my intentions were.
“It is to be part of something, and do it together. I know who we are and I like the fans that we have.”