Leeds United’s 2-0 win against Derby was dominated, not by actions on the pitch, but by actions taken the day before a ball had been kicked in what is now being called ‘Spygate’.
First, Derby escorted a man from their Moor Farm training complex on Thursday morning after “acting suspiciously”. A Derbyshire Police statement confirmed that they removed the man without making an arrest and without any damage caused. Derby County later stated that it was “an employee of the footballing staff at Leeds United Football Club”.
In his pre-match interview on Friday, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa admitted that he personally did send someone to spy on Derby’s training without the permission of the football club. He said that “It doesn't matter if this is legal or illegal, or right or wrong... for me, it is enough that Frank Lampard and Derby felt it was not the right thing to do, for me to believe that I didn't behave well”
"Yesterday I talked to Frank Lampard and he said I didn't respect the rules of fair play. I have a different point of view on it, but the important thing is what Frank Lampard and Derby think”
This is not the first time that Marcelo Bielsa has done this, mentioning that he had been doing it since qualification for the World Cup with Argentina. Marcelo Bielsa did not make an apology for the incident.
Derby County manager Frank Lampard views the matter in a different way. Speaking before the game he said that "On a sportsman's level, it's bad. If we are going to talk about culturally and say I did it somewhere else and it's fine, I don't believe that. It's disrupted our build-up to the game. People will say I am making an excuse, but I will speak like this after the game whether we win, lose or draw.”
"The training stopped because the police came on the training ground, then it went away. We were training on team tactics, team shape, personnel, how we are going to press, how we will work off the ball, the fact Harry Wilson wasn't training would become evident, so the person who is watching will see all of that."
Lampard then claimed that there was someone at Derby’s training ground before their 4-1 loss to Leeds in August, though that has neither been confirmed or denied by anyone at Leeds United. He was joined by former Derby striker Darren Bent who called it “unethical”
Some people take a different view to Lampard though. Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said that it was very common for managers in Argentina to follow such a practice. Speaking at his press conference he said that “It's nothing wrong with finding information about what the opponent is doing … 30 years ago it happened in Argentina. Not only Marcelo [Bielsa], all the managers. When I was 17, 18, 19-year-old all the managers like [Carlos] Bilardo or many, many others used to send people to watch training sessions. Here it's a bit weird, but it happened in Argentina.” Pochettino has previously spoken of his affection for Bielsa, calling him his “football father”. He was joined by former Arsenal player Charlie Nicholas, saying that it occured during his playing days and that "it's all about results".
Leeds United's 2-0 win against Derby opens the gap at the top of the Championship to five points, at least for now. Frank Lampard made no reference to the incident in his post match interview. Derby have not yet made a complaint to the Football League, with Lampard saying that it is up to the EFL “to see how they deal with it”.