As Pep Guardiola has shown us this week, there’s no amount of success that can fully insulate a manager from criticism from his own club’s fanbase - especially if he wades into matters away from the results on the pitch.
The Manchester City boss called for more fans to turn out for this weekend’s game against Southampton, after fewer than 40,000 were in attendance for the midweek 6-3 victory over RB Leipzig.
His comments were met with criticism from some supporters, including the general secretary of City’s official supporters club, who explained why it might be difficult for certain groups to commit to a midweek evening kickoff.
Of course, Guardiola is far from the first manager to have a falling-out with supporters of their club, and this kind of thing can happen for a variety of reasons…
1. Jose Mourinho vs Manchester United fans, 2018
Mourinho has never been one to shy away from conflict - from his rivals, his own club’s fans, his own club’s players, whoever - and there were plenty of examples we could have picked out from a variety of clubs.
“The fans, they can do what they want,” Mourinho said in March 2018 after supporters turned on Scott McTominay, before going on to explain he didn’t believe the fans should be able to do what they want. What’s more, the comments came after a win for his United team, which goes to show he has never needed a backlash to a poor result to take his frustrations out on anyone and everyone.
2. Sam Allardyce vs West Ham fans, 2015
Sam Allardyce got West Ham promoted back to the Premier League in 2012, but his style at Upton Park wasn’t always the most popular, as evidenced by his team being booed off after a victory over Hull City in 2014.
"I've never been in a place where I've won and got booed," the manager said at the time, but he saved his loudest criticism for a few months after leaving east London.
“I once called the supporters deluded and I stand by that. I don’t know who invented the West Ham way phrase, but it’s a millstone around the club’s neck,” he said in October 2015.
A few months later, the club was celebrating a 7th place finish with 20 more points and 15 more goals than they managed in any Allardyce Premier League season.
3. Brian Clough vs Nottingham Forest fans, 1989
When we talk about managers clashing with fans, we’re normally talking about verbal altercations. Not in the case of Brian Clough, though, who saw Nottingham Forest fans enter the field of play after a 5-2 League Cup victory over Queens Park Rangers and took matters into his own hands.
Mark Wheeler and Paul Richardson were the two young fans accosted by the manager, but they would later reveal there was no chance of them taking it in anything other than good grace.
“Imagine being known as the lads who had done the dirty on Brian Clough,” Wheeler said. “We’d never have been able to go to Forest again. We’d have been hated. Even now, it would have been impossible.”
4. John Carver vs Newcastle United fans, 2015
Carver’s results as Newcastle United manager left a lot to be desired, with the team only clinching Premier League survival on the final day of the season, and he didn’t help the hapless substitute teacher image by essentially asking a fan to ‘see me after class’ after a coming-together during an April 2015 defeat.
“Yes, I am getting stick from the crowd and I can take all that,” he said after that loss to Swansea City. “If anybody wants to talk me about it, I will talk to them about it. But I won’t give up on it and I will fight to the end.”
5. Nigel Pearson vs Leicester City fans, 2014
There are a number of ways in which you can respond to fan criticism, and Nigel Pearson’s approach as Leicester City manager was certainly, well, different.
First, there’s the video in which the then-Foxes boss is alleged to have told a fan of his own club to ‘f*** off and die’. It’s a bold strategy, we’ll grant him that. Then, in addressing the situation, he clarified that “there won’t be any apology”.
“If people were offended by what happened in some ways that is regrettable but there’s no need for me to apologise to someone of that ilk,” added Pearson, in an act of doubling if not tripling down. And yes, before you ask, this was the same season in which he called a member of the media an ostrich.
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