BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Millwall have no evidence that Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa sent a spy to watch them train – but Lions boss Neil Harris has described the tactic as “completely disrespectful”.
Bielsa admitted last week that he was responsible for a man – whose identity has not been made public – being removed by police from Derby County’s training ground. They went on to beat the Rams 2-0 on Friday night.
And the Argentina-born coach confessed it was not a one-off approach in the build-up to matches.
Millwall drew 1-1 with Leeds – top of the Championship table – in mid-September.
Harris said: “In all my years in football I have never seen anything like it. I think it is completely disrespectful to other teams and the spirit of the game in this country.
“The fact he doesn’t think he has done anything wrong is disappointing.”
His comments were echoed when the South London Press contacted chief executive Steve Kavanagh on the matter.
He said: “Our training ground is a little more open. You don’t need a pair of wire-cutters.
“It is disrespectful by a manager and you can’t distance your actions from the club.
“I see the club have come out and reminded him [Bielsa] that he needs to respect the name of Leeds. That’s not good enough – he is the club.
“If you just take the Derby scenario then they have gained an advantage. That isn’t in the spirit of the game.
“Every team will sit there and try and work out the opposition, what they are going to do and how they are going to set up.
“You’ll look at previous games. But knowing if people are injured is a huge advantage, of course it is.
“Managers will adapt during games but at this level, the lines between drawing, winning and losing are so fine. A spy seeing that is enough of an advantage to potentially turn one point into three. If it wasn’t then why are they doing it?
“He is risking the reputation of Leeds and dragging the name of the football club into disrepute.
“Football should be about 11 men against 11 men on the pitch and tactics – not about players not getting paid or people reportedly breaking into training grounds to see other people’s formations.
“Whatever the authorities do with Leeds isn’t going to affect us. We’re not going to make huge noises. But when asked by the press, then we’ve shown our displeasure.
“We’ll keep a close eye on who is walking up and down the path at Calmont Road.”
Leeds United issued their own statement on Saturday. It said: “Our owner Andrea Radrizzani has met with Derby County’s owner Mel Morris to formally apologise for Marcelo’s actions.”
Charlton boss Lee Bowyer, a former Leeds United midfielder, believes his side have been the victim of spying.
“I think it has happened to us,” he said. “I think it has happened a lot of times.
“At our training ground you have got bushes and you get people walking down all the time who stop, watch and write stuff down.
“There have been a number of times I’ve seen people out there. Can you stop it? Maybe at some clubs. We certainly couldn’t because of where our training ground is.
“Alright, you might get a heads up on who is playing – but other than that I don’t know [how much it matters]. It is what players do on the pitch out there.
“You could have all the information but six of your boys might have an off day.
“Yeah, it’s an advantage because you get to know shape. We just try to do it by watching the games previously, so you have got half an idea how they are going to play.
“With Accrington on Saturday I will watch when we played them away and then their more recent games. I’ll make sure it is a mix of home and away, just to cover all areas.”