Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

Clearly, for the journalists who got themselves over to Elland Road at short notice yesterday afternoon to attend an unscheduled press briefing from Leeds United's head coach Marcelo Bielsa, the event was both worthwhile and hugely memorable.

The 63-year-old Argentinian, who joined Leeds in June of last year, has prompted a joint Football Association (FA) and English Football League (EFL) investigation into charges - now extravagantly uncontested - that on the eve of last Friday's (January 11) 2-0 Championship win over Derby County he sent a "spy" to their private training session.

Derby manager Frank Lampard subsequently described Bielsa's conduct - in what has of course been labelled "Spygate" - as "unethical". 

He added: "I've never heard of going to a training ground on your hands and knees with pliers trying to break into private land to watch.

"But I don't attribute our performance to it because that's on us."

As the investigation proceeds, Bielsa, who has more than a touch of Jose Mourinho, the self-styled "special one", about him in terms of audacious unpredictability, has moved onto the front foot.

Leeds United's head coach Marcelo Bielsa, at the centre of an investigation for detailing an employee to spy on a Derby County closed training session, moved spectacularly onto the front foot yesterday ©Getty Images
Leeds United's head coach Marcelo Bielsa, at the centre of an investigation for detailing an employee to spy on a Derby County closed training session, moved spectacularly onto the front foot yesterday ©Getty Images

The former Argentina and Chile manager, who has also guided Athletic Bilbao, Marseille and Lazio in recent years and now has Leeds topping the Championship table, prefaced his briefing by reiterating: "The club is not responsible whatsoever. The person who did it followed my orders."

He added: "I'm going to make it easier for the Football League. We've watched all the opponents before we played them. My goal is to make the investigation easier for them.

"What I've done is not illegal. It's not specified or restrained. I have my point of view, as does Lampard, who believes I violated fair play. I have to adapt to the British way of football."

But then the man known back in his home footballing circles as Loko Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) kicked on with a mind-boggling PowerPoint presentation displaying voluminous research that had been conducted into every one of Leeds' Championship opponents.

He said that analysis of each of their opponents' previous matches takes four hours per game.

One of the journalists present, BBC sports broadcaster Adam Pope, tweeted: "I'll tell you now I am sitting in a coaching masterclass right now."

Bielsa showed Leeds had information on the percentage of games in which Derby used certain formations, which players were used in which positions and formations they had struggled against this season.

"I feel ashamed to have to tell you all this," added Bielsa, who denied that what he had done constituted cheating and explained, with the convincing help of his presentation, that he already had more than enough information about Leeds' opponents, adding that he had analysed all of Derby's previous 31 games.

"I didn't know it would have such a reaction," he said. "Even though this going and watching an opponent is not useful it allows me to keep my anxiety low.

"This kind of information does not allow you to win games. I am not trying to get an advantage, because the information I need I already have. And I'll repeat again, why do I do that? I think because I am stupid." 

At which point he brought his 90-minute performance to a close.

Bielsa has said he is ready to accept any sanctions the FA and EFL might hand out. But there was a disarming quality to what was effectively a long and detailed admission of something akin, in footballing terms, to obsessive compulsive disorder. 

As such, this insight resonated very strongly with the outlook of the man who guided, some say made, Leeds United in the 1960s and 1970s - Don Revie.

Having taken over at Elland Road in 1961, Revie revolutionised the club to the point where, as he stepped away in 1974 to take the England manager's job, they had won the First Division title, for a second time, in superb fashion.

When Revie took up his post, the attitude of many top football managers to pre-match preparations was a world away from the meticulous planning in which he would engage.

In his autobiography Right Back To The Beginning, the late lamented Jimmy Armfield of Blackpool and England - who replaced Revie's ill-starred replacement at Elland Road, Brian Clough, and guided the club to the 1975 European Cup final - recalled the team talks that would be given by his former club manager Joe Smith.

Having captained Bolton Wanderers to victory in the first FA Cup final to be held at Wembley in 1923, Smith guided Blackpool to three post-war Wembley finals, losing to Manchester United in 1948 and Newcastle United in 1951 before enjoying the glory of the 4-3 win over Bolton in 1953 that earned Stanley Matthews his long-awaited FA Cup winner's medal.

Armfield, who broke into the Blackpool team at the end of 1954, wrote: "He would come into the dressing room and just say 'pass the ball around, pass the ball around. We're better than they are. All you have to do is pass the ball around. You'll beat 'em."

On one occasion, Armfield, with the cockiness of youth, asked Smith: "What if the plan doesn't work?" The response: "If it doesn't work, lad, you can do what you always do. Give it to Matthews."

Jimmy Armfield, centre, in action for Blackpool against Spurs in 1959 - with Jimmy Greaves on the right - was not burdened with pre-match dossiers by his club manager in early years, Joe Smith ©Getty Images
Jimmy Armfield, centre, in action for Blackpool against Spurs in 1959 - with Jimmy Greaves on the right - was not burdened with pre-match dossiers by his club manager in early years, Joe Smith ©Getty Images

Armfield, one of life's gents, made it clear elsewhere in his book the huge strengths that Smith brought to bear upon the club, notably a superb eye for a player.

Revie's approach was the polar opposite to Smith's, as Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson's The Unforgiven - The Story of Don Revie's Leeds United makes clear. With the help of his scouts, and his coaching staff of Les Cocker, Syd Owen and Maurice Lindley, he compiled detailed dossiers on every opposing side.

The staff "would report whether the goalkeeper was a 'flapper' or a catcher, or whether the right half could accurately pass the ball across his body to the left winger while running right. And then they would drill the team to modify their tactics…

"The famous dossiers would usually be ready by Thursday, and on Friday morning the reserves, instructed by Owen, would copy the style of Saturday's opponents in a long practice session…"

In his 2005 autobiography Biting Talk, a stalwart of that Revie side, Norman Hunter, recalled: "The dossiers Syd Owen and Maurice Lindley wrote up on opponents were meticulously compiled and no detail, however small, was left out.

"I've known it take nearly an hour for the gaffer to read them out at team meetings, which he did with due seriousness. 

"We were told that if a player got the ball in a certain situation he was likely to do this or that or the other. 

"He would go through every player in the opposition and you sat there thinking 'yes, yes' until boredom took over and it was a struggle to stay awake."

Norman Hunter, left, in action against Bobby Charlton and George Best of Manchester United, used to find the dossiers on opponents read out by his Leeds manager Don Revie so detailed that he would struggle to stay awake ©Getty Images
Norman Hunter, left, in action against Bobby Charlton and George Best of Manchester United, used to find the dossiers on opponents read out by his Leeds manager Don Revie so detailed that he would struggle to stay awake ©Getty Images

By common consent, in his later years, Revie had accumulated sufficient faith, or sufficiently divested himself of doubt, to the point where he felt able to allow his superbly talented and experienced team to pretty much do their own thing, guided by a core of players such as Hunter, Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner, who knew exactly what to do, when to do it, where to do it - and who to do it to.

As Bielsa self-deprecatingly pointed out in the course of his impromptu teach-in, knowledge is not always power. 

He recalled how, after his Athletic Bilbao side had been beaten in the 2012 Spanish Cup final by Barcelona,  he had shown the latter's coach, Pep Guardiola, his pre-match analysis.

"Guardiola had a look at it and he told me 'you know more about Barcelona than me'. But it was useless information because they scored three goals…"