There has been a sense of relief amongst wingers in this country for the last few years. Why? Well, they are safe in the knowledge that Kevin Muscat is playing on the other side of the world.
However, I bet there were a few goosebumps this week when his name cropped up in national football news. The former Wolves and Millwall right-back is at the centre of a disciplinary row after huge criticism arose following a challenge he made last week.
Muscat’s Melbourne Victory were playing Melbourne Heart, with the score tied at 2-2 with around 10 minutes to play. Heart’s young winger Adrian Zahra was storming forward in search of a later winner, until he came across Victory captain Muscat.
Muscat sprinted towards Zahra, lifted himself off the floor and lunged at Zahra’s right knee, nowhere near the ball at the winger’s feet. Zahra instantly fell to the ground in agony and Muscat was promptly dismissed by the referee.
The challenge has not only left Zahra out for the rest of the A-League season, but has left Muscat on the receiving end of worldwide news coverage. Muscat, who plans to hang up his boots at the end of the current campaign, could enter retirement earlier than anticipated as the A-League weigh up a six-match ban. It would almost be an apt end to a career that has been filled with controversy.
Muscat – the beginning
You might think, OK, so it was a bad challenge, give the guy a break (no pun intended). But, I’ve dug up some of the controversial moments of Muscat’s career that have been a little closer to home. Wingers, look away now.
Muscat was first spotted playing in Australia by Crystal Palace, who brought him to England in 1996. After a season at Selhurst Park, and a successful play-off campaign, he joined Wolves. This is where he started to pick up his infamous reputation.
During a match against Charlton in 1998, he injured Matty Holmes. The injury was so bad that there were fears he may have had his leg amputated. Although he did recover, he never played football properly again and had to retire early. In 2004, he was awarded substantial damages during a court case against Muscat.
Later that season, he injured Norwich winger Craig Bellamy, an injury which kept the Welshman out for two months. Muscat was heavily criticised by the media for the quality challenge.
In September 1999, Wolves drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest. However, after the game, Forest striker Ian Wright claimed that Muscat unfairly stopped him from scoring a goal – by impersonating a teammate. Wright was about to shoot, but claimed he heard his fellow striker Dougie Freedman tell him to leave it for him. Wright obliged by stepping over the ball, only for Muscat to be standing there and boot the ball away. Clearly Muscat can count a Scottish accent as one of his talents?
More controversy hit in 2001 during a friendly between Australia and France. Muscat slid in from behind and seriously fouled Dugarry. Then-France manager Roger Lemerre described the tackle as ‘an act of brutality’.
In 2002, Muscat moved North of the border to Rangers, to try his hand at SPL football. However, during his time here, he was never selected to play in an Old Firm match against Celtic. Why? Make your own conclusions.
A Welshman never forgets!
His time in Scotland lasted just a season and he moved back to England in 2003 and joined Millwall. In 2004, Muscat was back in the spotlight after grabbing the throat of striker Milan Baros during a League Cup clash between Liverpool and Millwall.
Later that season, during a match against Norwich, he clashed with Iwan Roberts. Roberts later admitted he tried to stamp on Muscat as revenge for the challenge Muscat had done on Craig Bellamy a few years previous.
Muscat’s career in England ended on a sad note when he missed the FA Cup final after suffering knee ligament damage. Shortly after, he joined A-League side Melbourne Victory in Australia.
Little over six months into his career here, he was the first A-League player in history to be called before a FIFA disciplinary panel. In 2006, he was also suspended for four games after a clash with an opposition manager.
To round this off, I thought I’d include a revelation that came to light recently. Villa winger Ashley Young was speaking of his debut for Watford in 2003 and happened to mention that Muscat had told him during the warm-up “Don’t go past me or I will break your legs”. However, by the time Young entered the pitch as a substitute, Muscat had been sent off. Young had the last laugh when he scored a last minute goal, a perfect way to mark a debut!