Opinion

Muscat axe shows Aussie coaches on a hiding to nothing in Europe

Kevin Muscat reacts on the sideline Source: Getty Images

The merciless sacking of Kevin Muscat as Sint-Truiden coach barely 14 matches into the Belgian season has dismayed those of us who were hoping he could transfer his domestic success to the playing fields of Europe.

The axe fell on the former Socceroos defender and his assistants Carlos Salvachua and Luciano Trani immediately after the trio's battling club suffered their seventh defeat when they fell 3-2 to then-bottom club Mouscron.

Muscat's sacking from his first senior job in Europe raises two interesting issues.

Firstly, why have Aussie coaches failed to leave as meaningful a mark on European football as that of our players and are they on a mission impossible in trying to break into Europe?

And secondly, is Muscat's sacking a telling blow to the reputation and aspirations of Aussie coaches?

The answers to these questions are not easy to find because we are dealing here with complex issues that transcend pure ability.

It would be easy to explain this discrepancy by saying that our players simply are better than our coaches but that would be a lazy copout and a misguided appraisal of the situation.

Perhaps the answer could be found in sheer numbers.

There are tens of thousands of playing opportunities available in Europe and most clubs would be happy to give a promising Aussie a go because they usually come cheap and they are usually good value.

The high reputation for commitment and excellence that many Aussie footballers have achieved in Europe over the years ensures that the boys from down under are seen as a risk worth taking.

Given the chance of a breakthrough, any Australian with a degree of class and a readiness to tough it out would grasp the opportunity with both hands. Some failed and others succeeded.

The coaching scenario, however, is not so promising for our coaches, who have found opportunities extremely hard to come by.

The huge majority of coaching jobs in Europe's top 10 leagues are taken by Europeans or South Americans.

So much so that Muscat was one of only six non-Europeans or South Americans to hold a senior coaching position in any of the continent's top 10 leagues.

And as he was telling me not so long ago, Muscat was always conscious of the fact that as a foreigner, particularly one from Australia, he had to be much better than a local alternative to survive and be respected.

"They will stick together and look after their own in every shape and form. I've steady noticed that," he said.

The odds are certainly stacked against our coaches.

So what does all this mean for the prospects of Aussie coaches who yearn for a career abroad, particularly in Europe?

It does not look good especially since, unlike the players, no Australian coach has made a name for himself in the school of hard knocks that is European football.

Our coaches are basically on a hiding to nothing and it will take time and strong results for the European mentality about coaches from Australia, Africa or Asia to change.

Perhaps the last word should go to Football Coaches Australia president Phil Moss, who expressed deep dismay at Muscat's sacking.

"The problem is that it is hard to tell our story because our coaches are unknown in Europe unless they are Socceroos coaches like Ange Postecoglou or Graham Arnold," Moss said.

"Europe is a tough nut to crack.

"We all want our coaches to do well abroad but we should not lose sight of the fact that Kevin got the job in the first place, which is important."