'It's disgusting, he doesn't give a damn!': English football reacts as Leeds boss admits 'Spygate'
League-leaders Leeds ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Kemar Roofe and Jack Harrison to go five points clear at the top of England’s second tier as they search for a route back into the top flight after a 15-year absence.
However, the match was overshadowed by the discovery of a suspicious person at Derby’s Moor Farm training ground at 11.20am on the day of the game. Derby constabulary initial response unit reported they had apprehended the suspect seen near the ground’s perimeter fence, which had called a halt to the team’s training session.
Officers have just attended the Training Ground for @dcfcofficial After a suspicious male was seen at the perimeter fence. Excellent searching conducted & male was located. All checks above board! Keeping the team safe to bring home a win against #LUFC on 11th! #SpyingIsCheatingpic.twitter.com/a12Zj8gISX— Derby Response Unit - Derbyshire Constabulary (@DerbyResponse) January 10, 2019
It was later confirmed that the individual was an employee of Leeds United, and from there, Bielsa’s clandestine plan began to unravel. The Argentine took full responsibility for the incident, claiming it was his idea and had nothing to do with the Yorkshire club.
“The responsible of this incident is me, I am responsible for it,” he told Sky Sports. “It doesn’t matter if this is legal or illegal or right or wrong. For me, it’s enough that Frank Lampard and Derby County felt that was not the right thing to do for me to believe I didn’t behave well."
Tottenham manager and fellow Argentine Mauricio Pochettino was one of the few to defend Bielsa, whom he played under at Newell’s Old Boys in their native country, claiming the trick was widespread among the nation’s coaches.
Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has caused a storm by admitting he sent a spy to Derby County training.Mauricio Pochettino, a former pupil of Bielsa's, admits the practice has been known to be commonplace in Argentina. pic.twitter.com/1iN7xt6Nba— Omnisport (@OmnisportNews) January 11, 2019
“I played for him, I learned a lot from him... I learned a lot, the good and the not so good,” Pochettino said during his press conference before his side’s game against Manchester United on Sunday. “But look, there’s nothing wrong. I always try to find information and and to know a little bit more about what the opponent is doing.
“Thirty years ago it happened in Argentina, but not only Marcelo, all managers were like this… many many other names used to send people to watch the training sessions.”
However, an understandably frustrated Derby manager Frank Lampard, fully rejected the argument of any cultural nuance. Although he commended Bielsa taking full responsibility for the fiasco, he claimed the disruption to his side was significant in the buildup to the game and that tactics should remain “sacred” to the training ground.
“On a sportsman’s level it’s bad in my opinion,” the former Chelsea midfielder, whose side remained in the playoff places despite the defeat, told Sky Sports.
“If we’re gonna talk about ‘culturally I did it somewhere else and it was fine’, then that doesn’t work for me. I don’t believe that it’s fine on that level.”
Many former pros expressed their disgust and displeasure at the underhand tactics of Bielsa, including pundit Jermain Jenas.
"It's disgusting"@JJenas8 says Leeds have cheated by trying to spy on Derby County.Agree? Should anything happen to Leeds following Bielsa's admission?📻 https://t.co/CjyaEugpkGpic.twitter.com/NshRepAlfX— BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) January 11, 2019
Former pro Keith Andrews agreed, and called the move "quite disgusting" and ex-Spurs forward Darren Bent "unethical" while giving punditry on the game at Elland Road.
Despite sometimes employing similar tactics to uncover secrets about the English national team, the British press also had their own qualms about Bielsa.
Marcelo Bielsa is a great coach, with many disciples amongst modern managers, but sending spies to opposition training shows a complete lack of respect for his peers. LMA needs to respond to this, let alone FA and EFL. 🕵️♂️— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 11, 2019
The Leeds spy presumably didn’t break the law (otherwise police wouldn’t have let him go). Also hard to see what the FA can do. But aren’t the values of sportsmanship worth anything? Staggered by people trying to excuse this. Maybe it’s the au contraire attitude Twitter provokes https://t.co/SEjYbxE280— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) January 11, 2019
Marcelo Bielsa sending a spy to Derby's training ground is the most Bielsa thing ever. What a character. Get him up to the Premier League right now. He literally doesn't care one bit, it's not illegal but its immoral.— Mootaz Chehade (@MHChehade) January 11, 2019
The lack of self awareness amongst journalists continues to amaze. Outraged over Bielsa ordering staff to spy on Derby yet happy to undermine England at a World Cup with leaks over teams and training stuff.— James (@writtenoff_mufc) January 12, 2019
Meanwhile, the internet of course had their day out with memes and one-liners, with the Twitterati finding the funny side of proceedings.
"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful city. There's the famous Derby County training ground, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world." pic.twitter.com/dATusKDnOa— Jonny Sharples (@JonnyGabriel) January 11, 2019
Leeds utd spy reports back from derby training camp .... pic.twitter.com/P6aUQLmivA— Il Padrino (@martin_sneath) January 11, 2019
images of Leeds Spy Released pic.twitter.com/kSwyMGmBlL— NGRamsontour (@NGRamsontour) January 11, 2019
🗣 "We're Leeds United, we'll spy when we want" 🕵️♂️🙈 pic.twitter.com/wFD6hBTYch— TheFootballRepublic (@TheFootballRep) January 12, 2019
Surely sending spies daily to climb fences / hide in bathrooms with windows overlooking the training pitch to watch England sessions and disclosing your own countries team and tactics would be worse . No ? 😂 https://t.co/Ojxi5ooCpj— Gary Neville (@GNev2) January 12, 2019
Rather surprisingly, some voice of reason came from former England legend Paul Gascoigne, who claimed that he himself has been spied on at the age of 17 when he was one of the most sought after players in Europe.
He also named managerial great Bill Shankly, the former Liverpool boss, as a practitioner of that particular tactic when preparing for Merseyside derbies against rivals Everton.
just wanting2say about the LEEDS head coach getting some crap about he had a spy watching how derby played ha2all commentators sssh FFS when I played I did not give a fuck who spied on me FFS so i spy watched me,seen how I played I would play shit,bull shit accept it u got beat🤷♂️— Paul Gascoigne (@Paul_Gascoigne8) January 12, 2019
bill shankly’s house over looked Everton’s training ground you telling me the Everton players said I don’t want2play against Liverpool because bill shankly seen me train 😂 I was spied on when I was 17yrs old so I packed in playing football,I got scared of match of the day 😂xx— Paul Gascoigne (@Paul_Gascoigne8) January 12, 2019
Can’t help but think people are getting slightly carried away with Bielsa sending somebody to watch an opponents training session. It’s been happening for years. While I accept it’s morally wrong, it’s hardly a criminal offence.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) January 12, 2019
Former England striker Michael Owen also accused the English media of getting slightly carried away, explaining that tactics similar to Bielsa's have been implemented by managers for generations.
An English Football League spokesman told the BBC: "It is, of course, up to Derby County as to how they progress this matter but as of yet we have received no complaint or contact from the club."