A bitter-sweet end for Muscat in Melbourne
It wasn’t exactly a fairytale farewell, but then some would argue he didn’t deserve one. Kevin Muscat ended his football career on Australian soil with a 1-1 draw in front of 7,437 onlookers at Docklands last night. After 12 minutes, an Adrian Leijer-header put the home side in front. Then Sota Nakazawa equalised shortly before half-time.
Melbourne then proceeded to waste a number of scoring opportunities before time was called on an entertaining, and at times, enthralling affair.
However, it was neither the result, nor the send-off, Muscat had probably been hoping for.
Interestingly, in the lead-up to the game, reflections on the impending retirement of the Melbourne captain seemed to have been split into two distinct groups: those who felt he should be paid tribute to, and those with a bone to pick for his well-documented ills.
It’s not really a debate I buy into, though.
Muscat has been both punished and roundly condemned for his mistakes, including last season’s brutal tackle on Adrian Zahra in the Melbourne derby.
So I don’t feel any need to further revel in the errors of judgment that have blighted Muscat’s career. Now they are for him to live down.
The more pertinent issue is where does Muscat’s departure leave Melbourne Victory?
A couple years ago, a Victory side missing their captain through suspension or injury severely missed his leadership and drive. I’m no longer sure that’s the case.
For starters, in Adrian Leijer, the club has a young, but ready-made replacement for the captain’s armband.
Instead, I feel Muscat’s absence will be most severely felt beyond the pitch, as Melbourne loses a character they, at least in part, built a club around.
This is why Melbourne’s permanent replacement for former coach Ernie Merrick is so crucial.
For maximum leverage, it will have to be someone with enough leadership, to help reshape Victory’s image both inside and out of the dressing room but also an identity who can help the club get cut through a tough media landscape.
If the club’s new board gets this decision right, then the Victory wont miss Muscat’s presence as much as they once did.
In the meantime, those looking for retribution for, at times, a brutal career, can enjoy the memory of the former Socceroo bidding farewell to Australian football on a dodgy pitch, in front of a small crowd on a Wednesday night.