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Marcelo Bielsa For Prime Minister

If only the British Prime Minister had the same attention to detail and devotion to preparation that Marcelo Bielsa brings to his job.

Marcelo Bielsa

By Dave Bowler

It’s been an instructive week for anyone wishing to learn something about the way British – more especially, English – life operates.

We have a government in a state of collapse, losing a vote on its flagship legislation by a margin that makes Sunderland’s relegation of a couple of years ago look a near run thing. We have a member of the royal family, the Queen’s husband mind you, able to embark on a bit of recklessly dangerous driving with impunity and, more remarkable still, get himself a brand new replacement car delivered inside 48 hours.

And yet the villain of the week is a chap who is merely doing his job with what can only be described as extreme thoroughness, Marcelo Bielsa, manager of Leeds United. You’ll guess from his name that he is not from these shores – though neither is the Duke of Edinburgh – and that may have something to do with the coverage.

Bielsa Under Fire

Bielsa is under fire for having been caught in the act of sending someone to Derby’s training ground to watch the opposition at work ahead of their game, something which is apparently a hanging and flogging offence, or at least one worthy of a points deduction, despite being of little consequence. For as Bielsa then demonstrated with a PowerPoint masterclass at an impromptu press conference, any information gleaned from such surveillance is just a tiny detail in a huge mass of work that he and his staff do to get their players well prepared for the job in hand.

Maybe Bielsa should have just got himself a drone and a Go-Pro camera and flown it above the training grounds of England. Given that we can’t handle them if they fly above our airports, accessing the airspace of the rather less well protected – you’d hope – training grounds of England should be a doddle.

Live & Let Spy

It would certainly be more fitting for a man who is now being portrayed as an Argentine James Bond, though, as Tony Pulis pointed out with admirable perspective, if Bielsa thinks sending a bloke to stand by a fence at the Derby training ground while wearing a Leeds United coat a week before they met at Elland Road is inconspicuous, he wants to watch some different spy movies.

Which is exactly the point really. Why hide what you’re doing when, to Bielsa, he wasn’t doing anything underhand, he was doing his job, the way it is done by coaches without number all around the world. Including England.

Believe me, even in England, even among English coaches, this has been going on for many, many years, since tactics, formations and the like began to hold sway, from the days when teams began moving away from the stereotypical WM formation and began doing their own thing.

But in England, for some reason, it’s better to be hypocritical than honest, to be sanctimonious than straight. God forbid that you should admit to watching your opponents in training, despite the fact that every team now has a phalanx of analysts dissecting every single one of their games for as far back as you like, just as they have sources inside and outside every club from whom they try to glean any tiny bit of information.

They All Do It

They all do it, everybody knows they all do it, everybody tries to exploit it by spreading misinformation too, but we mustn’t admit to it because it might make us sound like those dastardly foreigners who actually want to win and are appalling enough to admit to it. Dashed bad form.

What a shame then that this isn’t the 19th century that some of our leaders – and I use that word “leaders” in a sense so loose that’s it’s already fallen apart – believe we are still living in. Somehow in this country, the concept that you shouldn’t try too hard to succeed still holds sway, in spite of the fact that in modern professional sport, it is virtually impossible to name anybody who has had success without sacrificing themselves to their game.

But in England, we still have to behave like adolescents outside an examination hall – “No, I didn’t do any revision. Did you?” “Me? No chance!”

Pity really, for I can’t think of a country, nor a time, that is more desperate for serious people capable of doing serious work than right here, right now. With the absolute train wreck shambles that is being made of Brexit, isn’t it a shame that Boris Johnson, Theresa May or Michael “we’ve had enough of experts” Gove don’t possess half the professionalism, the attention to detail and devotion to preparation that Marcelo Bielsa brings to his – rather less important in the grand scheme of things – work. Things might look altogether brighter here if they did.

Bielsa for PM!

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