Search icon


12th Jan 2019

Gary Neville calls out English press hypocrisy over Leeds ‘spygate’ scandal

The former England coach has responded to press criticism of Marcelo Bielsa's controversial tactic by highlighting its inherent hypocrisy

Reuben Pinder

He has a point

If you’re not familiar with spygate, here’s a quick breakdown of the story which has, as far as I’m concerned, been blown out of proportion.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa sent someone to spy on Derby County’s training session ahead of their clash in the Championship last night. Derby then phoned the police and the man was asked to leave. Derby boss Frank Lampard was incensed by Bielsa’s behaviour, saying he does not care if it is accepted in other footballing cultures. Bielsa took full responsibility for his actions, explaining that people above him at Leeds weren’t aware.

Leeds then beat Derby 2-0. Got it? Sweet.

Now, this story has provoked a fair bit of outrage among the press and football fans alike. Some have likened it to doping, while others do not see it as an issue at all. The truth probably lies somewhere in between; it’s not the worst thing you can do, but it is pushing the boundaries of what is fair game quite far.

Gary Neville, former Manchester United player and England assistant coach, has criticised the press for taking the moral high ground in the debate, recalling times when journalists would send spies to watch England train at international tournaments and publish tactics, effectively doing the opposition’s preparation for them.

Many journalists have been vocal about their disapproval of Bielsa’s tactics, but Neville used the Times’ Henry Winter as an example.

Winter tweeted: “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.”

Neville took issue with this, saying: “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?”