Is Muscat the man to lead the Victory?
Melbourne Victory FC fans celebrate their team scoring a goal against Perth Glory FC during their A-League match at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (AAP Image/Martin Philbey)
A clean-out of the players or a manager who can adapt and get the best out of the men at his disposal? That’s the question the Melbourne Victory board are looking to answer over the coming weeks.
If I was offering them any advice, I’d suggest a potential solution might be sitting right under their nose.
This is likely to surprise a few long time readers of The Round Ball Analyst, who have long known my views on the often-boorish behaviour of Kevin Muscat as a footballer, but something tells me he might just be the Victory manager in waiting.
While the conventional wisdom is that Muscat is on his L or P plates, developing his managerial experience in the background, there’s also an argument that, given the opportunity, he’s unlikely to do any worse than what’s been produced this season by both Mehmet Durakovic and Jim Magilton.
Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise if he does much better than that.
For all his carry-on as a player, there’s no doubt Muscat is a dominant personality, and if there’s one thing you need to manage a big club (by Australian standards) like the Victory, it’s a manager with the strength to handle the many stakeholders, from players, to agents, to the board, to the fans and the media.
There’s rarely been a more divisive figure in the Australian game. Many Victory fans love him. Across the rest of the country though he’s often public enemy number one.
There’s every chance, prancing around the technical area and in the press-room, he could become Australia’s answer to Jose Mourinho, a love-hate figure.
Whether he can be anywhere near as successful as The Special One remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the Victory’s popularity around the country would plummet even more.
But scratch beneath the surface of hardness and there lurks what seems to be a knowledgeable football man.
This in part could be told from his work for SBS in South Africa two years ago, while it was widely felt the Muscat the player often ran the Victory show under Ernie Merrick.
Meanwhile, in his only appearance as the main man in the dugout, or at least on the plastic chairs, Muscat set his team out in what looked a logical formation, and playing with good organisation. The Victory managed to knock-off the Newcastle Jets.
Whether he would be able to produce this kind of work consistently is another story, but there’s little doubt the ride would be interesting. The mind games, you sense, would flow.
One of his biggest challenges, if he is to get a sniff, would be to distance himself from the friendships he has no doubt formed as a team-mate of many of the players still at the Victory.
Managing the obvious need for a regeneration of the roster remains the biggest challenge for whoever steps into the main-man role next season.
Perhaps the board’s feeling is that Magilton, without the context of having played with the likes of Grant Brebner, Archie Thompson, Tom Pondeljak, Roddy Vargas, Leigh Broxham and Danny Allsopp, is best placed to manage this transition.
Perhaps the feeling is that once Magilton’s regenerative work is done, Muscat, free from the challenge of having to distance himself from mates (one most in Australian football struggle with), can step up.
Yet the dilemma is that Magilton doesn’t appear to have come up with enough answers in his two or so months in charge ().
His default has been to attack the players for their performances rather than give them the confidence and technical solutions to perform better.
This, to me, would suggest Magilton’s not the right man. Going for an inexperienced Muscat might seem a gamble, but if it’s a choice between him and the temporary incumbent, it’s a gamble worth taking.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA