Thug or Legend? How will Kevin Muscat be remembered?

Thug or Legend? How will Kevin Muscat be remembered?

 by Carlos Alberto Diego

It was in a former life as a school soccer coach back in 1988 when I first witnessed the terrifying psychological effect Kevin Muscat had on others.

It was half time and I was imploring the adolescent, gelled-haired Ronaldo wannabes in my team to lay a tackle on the cocky curly haired kid in the opposition who was strolling around destroying us with inch perfect through balls and impeccable reading of the play.

‘But Sir do you know who that is?’ one of my petrified over coiffed kids responded, ‘Its Kevin Muscat!’.

The horrified look in his eyes said it all.

I knew that not even my most inspirational ‘blow-dryer’ or stirring ‘I love youse guys’ pep talks was going to convince any of my boys to go anywhere near this bloke and what made it worse, Musky knew it.

Fast forward 22 years to the Melbourne Victory V Adelaide United A-league Round 22 clash at the Bubble Dome in Melbourne.

It was familiar sight. The ref brandishes a red card and an aggrieved Kevin Muscat departs the field for an early shower.

To many it was like Groundhog Day – the tense posturing, the predictable brain explosion, the infringement/maiming/bloodletting or all of the above, the ‘hold me back, hold me back’ afters, the bullied ref at the end of his tether nervously flashing his red card, and Musky trudging off with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

It was all very familiar but this time I felt something different.

Walking off, as he bizarrely crossed himself, I had a moment of clarity - not your religious ‘happy clappy’ clarity but a clarity more from the dark side. Apologies for the over dramatic prose but I was sad.

Not because I felt Kev was a victim of an injustice, as they say you live by the sword you die by the sword, but more because I was concerned that with only a handful of games left in his celebrated career, how would he, as one of our great Australian footballers, be remembered?

If you read Michael McGuire’s blog - Melbourne’s non-Victory: three cheers for justice at you might conclude that Kevin Muscat is and has always been no more than a talentless thug on the football field.

To back his case McGuire cites Musky’s crippling of English footballer Matty Holmes and subsequent payout for damages, and the ‘horrible’ injuries he inflicted on French international Christophe Dugarry and Welshman Craig Bellamy (even though many would’ve have paid big bucks to have seen the latter).

I’m sure there are a plethora of other on-field incidents that McGuire could also quote to further back his case. The evidence tells us over a long period of time that Muscat’s reputation for being a hard man, who routinely intimidates the opposition and referees to his advantage and oversteps the mark on the field, sometimes in a quite violent way, is undeniable.

Whether this makes him a talentless thug or the ultimate competitor will depend on whether you have the capacity or the want to separate his ugly on field reputation from his ability and achievements as a footballer.

At his ‘most hated man in football’ worst I am not a fan of Kevin Muscat the footballer - not so much what he does but more so why he feels the need to do it.

You see I disagree strongly with McGuire’s argument that Muscat ‘is not much of a player’. It’s ridiculous to make that claim irrespective how much you hate the guy. All you need to do is look at the facts.

This is bloke who broke into the old NSL as a 16 year old, played for the Young Socceroos in two Youth World Cups 1991 and 1993 (captaining Australia in the latter), played for the Olyroos at the 1996 Olympics, played for the Socceroos  51 times, broke into the Crystal Palace Division 1 championship winning team immediately on joining from NSL club South Melbourne in 1996, had the courage to take and score a memorable penalty at the MCG in the World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in 2001, had a 10 year career in the UK including captaining Millwill to an FA Cup final in 2004 and has been the most influential player for the most successful team – Melbourne Victory - in the six year history of the A-league. I think he is and always has been a great player.

So the question remains - Kevin Muscat ‘thug or legend’?

For what it’s worth I believe he has been too good a footballer to be remembered as a ‘thug’ but he has let himself down too often to be regarded as a ‘legend’.

How will he be remembered? What are your thoughts?

Copyright Four Diegos Media 1993