‘Man City fans were at home or in bars watching Liverpool or United… that’s the culture’: Pep Guardiola says City must ‘seduce’ their supporters to back them in the Champions League
- Manchester City host Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League on Tuesday
- General sale tickets for the match at the Etihad are available from £20 still
- A fans poll by the club, revealed they would rather win the Premier League again
Pep Guardiola admitted Manchester City must ‘seduce’ their supporters to back them in the Champions League.
The City boss revealed that a poll of fans undertaken by the club confirmed they would rather win the Premier League than achieve success in Europe.
Attendances are generally down for group stage matches, although City are estimating in the region of 48,000 for Tuesday’s clash with Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb.
Pep Guardiola says Manchester City must entice their fans to Champions League games
‘We are going to try to seduce our fans,’ Guardiola said. ‘All I can do is say to our fans “come to join us and support us, these guys deserve it”.
‘It is impossible to do it alone, without the feeling that we want to do it and are able to do it. The fans must know that without them and without the nice environments (atmosphere) it’s impossible.
‘That’s a reality of our club, we have to accept it. We have to seduce them so they realise how it’s important.
‘I know for the fans it’s the Premier League that is most exciting. We know that as a club, we’ve done polls, and the people prefer by far to win the Premier League than the Champions League.
‘I know how special it is. But this competition is nice too. They have to live it as a dream. We have outrageous players, they want to win and make a step forward too. We need the fans.’
City fans decided to stay away during the 2-1 home loss to Lyon in the group stage last season
City have embarked on their ninth consecutive season in the Champions League and a fractured relationship with UEFA has done nothing to romanticise the competition. Booing of the pre-match anthem has dissipated over time but resentment still lingers.
Group C is hardly a mouth-watering prospect either, with Shakhtar Donetsk and Atalanta not exactly fixtures attracting allure.
As well as sensible pricing strategies – tickets on general sale start from £20 – City have handed out hundreds of free tickets to local schools, while Guardiola conceded that his club do not hold Europe’s most prestigious prize in the same esteem as some of their close rivals.
‘I think it’s because in the past, a whole generation, they were not there in this competition at our club,’ Guardiola added. ‘We were at home in the bars, drinking beer watching Liverpool and (Manchester) United for decades.
‘That’s the culture of the club. We are making steps as a club. I’ve a feeling we are closer but this competition is in a high level, anything can happen.
‘Sometimes it takes a few years and sometimes longer. Barcelona is the club in my heart but 1992 was the first trophy. And Barcelona was born a long, long time ago. They’ve been in it every season since they were born.’
Guardiola is refusing to put any extra pressure on himself to win City the Champions League
It is why, to Guardiola’s mind at least, City should not be considered favourites to lift this year’s pot. He feels that to win it, the whole club needs to be engaged and it is why he raised the issue of atmosphere with chief executive Ferran Soriano towards the end of his first season.
‘If I don’t win I’m not going to kill myself, I promise. I will try my best for the next period. My first press conference in the first year here it was the same question, people said “you are here to win the Champions League,” and I said “ok”. I spoke with Khaldoon (Al Mubarak) and Ferran and they didn’t tell me that. Of course we are going to try. I’d be happier if we won it.’
What does enthuse Guardiola is the connection some of his younger players have with the club after Taylor Harwood-Bellis was filmed chanting in Goodison Park’s away end during Sunday’s victory over Everton. Harwood-Bellis made his senior debut at Preston last week.
‘I like it,’ he smiled. ‘I like the players who are committed here like Phil (Foden). They have the connection with our fans.
‘He’s a 17-year-old and I think he will be a central defender for this club and the Premier League. I have that feeling, maybe I’m wrong.
‘We want these players to stay here 10-12 years and make a career. There is a time when these young players will arrive. I promise you. The next step is for them.’