March 14 2012
Tom Ladbury laments the loss of the modern day hatchet man and recalls Crystal Palace's version in Kevin Muscat.
The modern game has seen the death of my favourite player; the hard-man - not in the Brighton sense.
Nowadays we are led to believe that Joey Barton provokes fear into the opposition, but that cigar-smoking, Kipling reading, Scouse t****r wouldn’t be able to live with the likes of West Ham’s Julian Dicks, Wimbledon’s Vinnie Jones and our very own... wait for it... Kevin Muscat!
Muscat, born in Crawley before moving Down Under, was signed by Harry Bassett from South Melbourne in the 1996/97 season. He was a strong defender who could play anywhere across the back four and loved to get “stuck in”, as the cliché goes.
Since leaving Palace, Muscat gained a reputation for being a nasty little player. It seems the entire Australian nation is divided on whether to love or loathe him.
However, when at Palace I saw a more than capable defender who, when playing at right-back, liked to come forward and put in some dangerous crosses.
Why Coppell sold “Mussie” soon after our 1997 promotion to the Premier League continues to leave me baffled. I’d have loved to have seen him going toe to toe against the likes of Roy Keane and Patrick Viera in a potential bloodbath. I know it isn’t the most politically correct thing to say but deep down we’d all love a Muscat!
He only received the one red-card at Palace, however his rash challenge on a Norwich City player did lead to a 22 man brawl.
He also sadly ended the career of Charlton midfielder Matty Holmes with one of his infamous challenges, a tackle that led to Holmes receiving £250,000 in damages.
Although violence should not be condoned my favourite Muscat moment occurred in an FA Cup clash against Leeds. At the time a young, obnoxious Lee Bowyer was playing for Leeds, doing his best to taunt our boys in red and blue with some petty challenges.
Fed up at Bowyer’s antics, Muscat decided to tackle the former Charlton player’s knee in one of the finest, yet filthiest challenges I have ever witnessed. It was wrong for so many reasons, until you realised it was on Lee Bowyer!
So was Muscat a decent player or just a thug, hired by teams to literally hurt the opposition? Our very own Ian Wright described Muscat as a “lowlife” whilst England legend Terry Butcher admitted when coaching in Australia that “every manager in the A-League would love to have Kevin.”
I am convinced had he stayed at Palace he’d have become a legend, instead he ended up at Millwall, playing for them at a Cup Final.
If you get a chance, search for Muscat on You Tube where you will see plenty of examples as to why at Rangers he was never picked to play in an Old Firm derby due to a “suspect temperament”.
However, make sure any children are out of the room as his challenges are definitely X-Rated!
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