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Opinion

Muscat's hardman reputation can help European coaching career

Former A-League coach Kevin Muscat. Source: Getty Images

Last month, Ange Postecoglou lamented the fact that being Australian was a big minus for those who wanted a European coaching career.

"The reality of it is there is still a massive stigma against Australian coaches and where we come from and I don’t think that has changed or will necessarily change very quickly," Postecoglou told Optus Sport.

"But for us, having that Australian passport means we have to start at the bottom. I know that is not going to deter the likes of Popa and Musky and I have no doubt they will eventually work their way up.”

The former Socceroos boss has a point.

There are some passports that make it easier to get jobs and Australia's is not one of them, though they should spare a thought for the Japanese, South Korean and other Asian tacticians who would love a European stint. They are lower down the list.

But what of the aforementioned ‘Musky’ - Kevin Muscat? He has already coached in Europe though his stint in Belgium with Sint-Truiden, that started in June 2020, did not go so well and did not last long. By December, he was out of a job.

The 47-year-old said last week that he has relocated to London in order to get his new job. This makes sense given the simple fact that there are more jobs over there than there are at home.

"I was working in the Pro League in Belgium last year and loved it,” Muscat told a Millwall podcast and said that he is looking to work in England.

"Hopefully, that’s why I’m basing myself here in London, I’m going to stay here and re-network myself."

Muscat admitted that he has something of an image problem in the UK after his time there as a player with Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Rangers and Millwall.

In his career, he received 12 red cards and 123 yellows that helped forge quite a reputation.

"But I’d like to think I could pass a ball and play a bit as well,” he added.

“I think you’ve got to get to page 4,033 on Wikipedia to see that I actually played football but I have to take responsibility for that I suppose and live with it.” 

Once called the ‘most hated man in English football’, a mention of Muscat still provokes reactions. Many strikers of that era have their own stories of the former Rangers and Wolves defender.

“Kevin Muscat scared me,” former Liverpool and England striker Peter Crouch said last year.

“You know people would say, ‘I’m going to break your legs’ – when he would say it, you genuinely believed him.”

Yet such notoriety could actually help.

Muscat is a coach who has already shown signs of having what it takes to be successful during his time at Melbourne Victory. Unlike pretty much every coach coming out of Asia, people actually know who he is. And that is a major plus.

And this reputation helps in another way too. Postecoglou talks of an Australian passport putting coaches at the bottom of the pile when it comes to jobs, but Muscat’s infamy helps to cancel that out.

The ex-Socceroo is seen as a hardman more than he is seen as Australian. As a player that didn’t matter but as a coach, it can make a difference.

Having some notoriety as a player is not necessarily a barrier to getting a job in England or Scotland, as Joey Barton with Fleetwood and Bristol Rovers and Lee Bowyer with Charlton Athletic found out.

Muscat is not going to walk into a top job straight away but his colourful reputation in the United Kingdom as a player can give him a boost when it comes to continuing his European career as a coach.

It doesn’t matter if people don’t get to page 4,033 of his Wikipedia page, everyone already knows who he is and people don’t care that he is Australian. He is Kevin Muscat.