I spy with my little eye something beginning with…..“s”.
Yes, that’ll be “s” for “sanctimonious”. And, more precisely, all the sanctimonious guff that has been bilging forth from a number of holier-than-thou ex-footballers in the aftermath of the “Spygate” scandal that enveloped Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United’s Argentinian head coach, after a member of his coaching staff, acting on Bielsa’s orders, had been found “behaving suspiciously” outside Derby County’s training complex (i.e. on public property) last Thursday – a day before the two clubs clashed at Elland Road. (A match, incidentally, that top-of-the-table Leeds won 2-0 in highly impressive fashion.)
Bielsa, for his part, accepted full responsibility for what had happened while also saying it was something that a) was normal in his indigenous culture and b) he’d practised for 20-odd years.
“I don’t care if it’s cultural – I’m not buying it…This one is over the line and it’s not just a toe over the line. It’s a hop, skip and a jump over the line,” whinged Frank Lampard, the Derby manager, who must have had his head deep in the sand as a player at Chelsea when Andre Villas-Boas, in his capacity as an assistant to Jose Mourinho, similarly visited opposition training grounds – “often incognito”, in Villas-Boas’ own words.
And this, from Stan Collymore: “It’s cheating… Leeds should be sanctioned by the FA for unsporting behaviour and at a minimum be made to replay the fixture, a fine for Bielsa and club.”
Jermaine Jenas, meanwhile, suggested that Leeds should be punished by having points deducted while Keith Andrews moaned: “It’s not illegal, but it’s immoral. It’s not within the spirit of the game in the way it’s played over here.”
Pride of place, however, is reserved for Martin Keown, who grumbled: “I’m not happy about it, of course. The moral code of conduct for sport, I think, has been severely breached here.”
If you really want to observe a sporting code of conduct being breached, then I’d suggest looking at the Manchester United/Arsenal match at Old Trafford in September 2003, when Keown, odiously, confronted Ruud van Nistelrooy, who’d just missed a penalty, at the end of the game. Keown sanctimoniously offering judgement on moral sporting codes? Do me a bleedin’ favour.
As for suggestions that Leeds were “cheating” or “immoral”, I respectfully suggest that football instead pays rather closer attention to its own on-field image. The real cheating/immorality occurs on the pitch every single week, with players diving (witness Jamie Vardy’s repugnant dive against Southampton only last Saturday), feigning injury, waving imaginary cards, time-wasting… you name it.
As for Lampard and Derby, maybe they should invest a bob or two in a bit of tarpaulin if they really want to protect the privacy of their training complex. In the meantime, rather than bothering the Derbyshire constabulary again, they may want to organise a search party for their team, which went missing in action at Elland Road last Friday – and especially their left-back, who was last seen floundering in Jack Clarke’s magical wake.