SPYING isn’t confined to the training ground.
There is a very famous story within football circles of a secret passageway that led from the first-team changing room of a northern club to the away changing room, down which a runner would listen to rival managers at half-time through a fake wall.
Ian Whittaker – The Sun4 Dave Kitson has given his opinion on Leeds sending a spy to observe Derby's training session
The tunnel isn’t there any more, I hasten to add. It is said to have been uncovered after an opposition manager heard somebody on the other side and punched through the fake wall before a match, catching the person eavesdropping in the process.
The revelation that Leeds sent somebody to watch a Derby training session is unusual only in the fact that he was caught.
This type of football espionage has been going on for years — since before I became a footballer. Training grounds are vast areas of rows of football pitches very often surrounded by public walkways behind see-through metal fences.
For the most part it isn’t exactly difficult to see what’s going on, although, at the top level, security guards are often deployed to sweep the perimeter at regular intervals.
Reuters4 Marcelo Bielsa's side are under investigation by the FA over the incident
PA:Press Association4 Frank Lampard cancelled his Rams session after the spy was found out
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In the Premier League at both Reading and Stoke, shady characters wearing long jackets regularly observed our coaching sessions while hiding in the trees near the more obsessive fans who sang and cheered as they watched us train.
In fact, I can remember our midfielder at Reading, James Harper, kicking balls at the fence to make sure that one such note-taker knew he’d been busted.
Even in League Two at Oxford United, towards the end of my career, I remember drones coming over the training ground and hovering above the first-team pitch.
It may simply have been a drone enthusiast catching some action but it might easily have been something altogether more sinister.
PA:Press Association4 Leeds beat Derby 2-0 at Elland Road on Friday night
Managers want to know which players will make up the opposition team as soon as possible.
And they can find that out as early as Monday or Tuesday before a weekend game by watching which players are picked for the shape session — a kind of passive coaching drill where the starting 11 practice moving as a unit depending on which area of the pitch the coach throws the ball.
But while sneakily watching in to gain an advantage is, I suppose, against the spirit of the game, the upside far outweighs the current deterrent.
Leeds may well receive a modest fine from the FA should they be found guilty — and if they do, they’ll consider it money well spent for three valuable points.
Nobody in football is surprised by claims of spying, only the clumsiness with which Leeds are alleged to have gone about it will be the real shock.