Daily Archives: 12/01/2019

Leeds United “Spygate”: Let’s Not Pretend It Hasn’t Happened Before – by Rob Atkinson

A timely tweet (above) from journalist Amitai Winehouse has exposed the nauseating media hypocrisy gathering like a cloud of effluvium around “Spygate” – the ridiculously over-hyped episode of Derby County players being observed training in plain sight. There’s nothing illegal about it, and it’s clearly happened before (also reported in the Daily Telegraph) and with zero fuss. So why this eagerly overemphasised storm in a teacup? Why the dark threats of FA investigations, why the demands by media no-marks for sanctions? Could it just possibly be due to the fact that Leeds United are involved, and all these hysterical attention-seekers have spied a bandwagon ripe for the jumping on?

Some will say that United manager Marcelo Bielsa emerges from this with little credit. I say he is left in splendid isolation as the only honest man involved, while various hacks, opponents and other such hypocrites – yes, that word again – trip over each other in their desperation to make some capital out of a non-event and perhaps somehow upset a Leeds United apple cart that is threatening to become an unstoppable juggernaut.

Reviewing the Sky Sports coverage of last night’s match against a cluelessly inferior Derby County is not an edifying experience. The assembled pundits and presenters took ages to drag themselves around to addressing the actual football business of the evening – instead, they were positively salivating at “this sensational breaking story” as they termed it. The “story” was Bielsa being frank, honest and anything but contrite about what he clearly sees as a variation on scouting – but the assembled po-faced hypocrites were determined to paint it as a betrayal of trust and decency only one small step down from Judas Iscariot‘s behaviour in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Exactly how the said hypocrites feel this is justified, given the evidence in the image above, is difficult to imagine. But it’s Leeds, so they’ll do their best. At some point though, there will have to be some acknowledgement that, yes, it’s happened before and, no, the whole of the football world didn’t have a cow and demand anyone’s head on a plate. The delicious irony is that the instance above was during Jose Mourinho‘s time at Chelsea, and who was on the playing staff at the time? None other than last night’s whinger-in-chief, the initially scandalised and ultimately demoralised Frank Lampard. So does Frank know that this sort of thing has happened before? Of course he bloody does.

I took the further step earlier today of tweeting the image above to Keith Andrews, the most vocal of last night’s pundits, to ask him if he’d be commenting about Mourinho in similar vein to his over the top attack on Bielsa. Or, I asked, is he content to be receipted and filed as just another hypocrite. How that word keeps cropping up when you’re writing about Leeds United’s legions of critics. I won’t be holding my breath for a reply.

Another bandwagon-jumper was former footballer, current Midlands apologist and of course historical woman beater Stan Collymore. He called for last night’s match to be replayed, and for Bielsa to be beheaded on Tower Hill, or something. Women beaters tend to find it difficult to ascend the moral high ground, so I possibly didn’t pay too much attention to Stan’s bletherings.

At the end of the day, it was still about the football, however much Sky wished and tried to make it otherwise. And, on the football pitch, Leeds United beautifully and ruthlessly dismembered Derby County in a performance of passion, skill and control. Young Jack Clarke, starting for the first time, showed some more of his blossoming genius and was at times unplayable. He reminded me of what they used to say about the late, great Stanley Matthews: “You knew how Stan was going to beat you, you knew exactly what he was going to do. But stopping him was another matter entirely”. In the end, I felt sorry for the Derby left back, who stood in need of being taken off with twisted blood. Clarke destroyed his opponent and was heavily involved in both goals. What a prospect United have here.

But the whole team performed well, and it was as complete a performance as we’ve seen for a while. Denied an early penalty by a daft offside call, Leeds simply went about their business and never gave Derby a sniff. It was wonderful to behold, as was that smacked puppy look on Lampard’s face at the end – the same expression he wore after our 4-1 battering of his outclassed team at Pride Park in August. This time, he paused after the final whistle for only a cursory handshake before flouncing off down the tunnel, doubtless pondering on how to field further questions about Spygate without sounding like he was making lame excuses.

And so a very satisfactory day ended, and now we wait to see what, if anything, our corrupt football authorities try to do about the storm the media have so assiduously whipped up. And that’s when we need to shove the evidence of prior occurrences right in their smug faces – so please, anybody who reads this, find Amitai Winehouse’s tweet and share, share, share. You know it makes sense.

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