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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 13:20 GMT
Muscat accused again
BBC Sport Online profiles the controversial Wolves and Australia defender Kevin Muscat
Kevin Muscat joins a meeting of his France fan club
BBC Sport Online profiles Wolves and Australia's Kevin Muscat - the player once branded "probably the most hated man in football" as he is involved in fresh controversy.

France coach Roger Lemerre's allegations about "an act of brutality" almost qualify as words of praise when it comes to the chequered career of Kevin Muscat.

Wolves defender Muscat does not so much court controversy as hold it in a warm embrace.

So it was no surprise when he came out fighting after coming under attack again for a tackle on Christophe Dugarry in Australia's 1-1 draw with world champions France in Melbourne.

The recriminations flew as fast as a trademark Muscat tackle as Dugarry contemplated at least three months out with knee ligamant damage and a desperate fight to be fit for next summer's World Cup.

The bottom line is what goes around comes around, and there will be someone nastier who will get him one day
Martin Grainger on Kevin Muscat
The normally measured Lemerre said: "Football is not a game of skittles, but I'm deeply unhappy about that tackle. It was a close match and it should not have been tarnished with such an act of brutality."

Muscat later claimed - in a revelation supported by Middlesbrough's Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer - that he had been spat at by Arsenal's France star Robert Pires.

The controversial Wolves defender insisted this had been a catalyst for incidents in the game.

Muscat was booked and instantly replaced by Australia coach Frank Farina as Dugarry was stretchered away.

But he pleaded his innocence about the stricken Dugarry as he said: "I want to confirm that the tackle was not made with any malice or intent to cause injury. The momentum of the tackle and the weather conditions contributed to the injury sustained by Dugarry."

Muscat's words may be regarded as having a familiar ring to some within football who harbour open contempt for the player who has shown enough natural ability to captain both Wolves and his country.

Charlton's Matt Holmes was furious about a Muscatchallenge
Holmes is stretchered away after a challenge
Former Charlton midfield player Matt Holmes is still threatening taking action for damages after claiming his top-flight career was curtailed by a Muscat challenge in an FA Cup replay at Molineux in February 1998.

Wolves have insisted they were "100% certain it was a total accident" and promised to support Muscat.

Holmes, who is now player-coach with non-league Dorchester Town, needed skin grafts and had to have a metal bolt inserted in his ankle after the clash.

He says: "I tried hard, but I was never quite right after that tackle. That's why I'm prepared to go all the way to get justice. I should have been playing top-class football for at least three of four years longer."

Muscat was a regular visitor to the FA's one-time headquarters at Lancaster Gate, picking up fines for his regular brushes with authority.

And he has made a long list of enemies within the game, despite his reputation as a typically likeable Aussie off the pitch.

Former Norwich City boss Bruce Rioch was infuriated by a tackle which did not earn Muscat a booking when Craig Bellamy sustained an horrific knee injury in a collision with the Wolves defender in 1998.

Rioch was so infuriated he clashed with a linesman at Molineux, and after racing on to the pitch to check on his injured player had to be physically restrained by his backroom staff.

Then Norwich boss Bruce Rioch was heavily critical of Muscat
Rioch lambasts Muscat
The former Scotland star, a hard man himself in his playing days with Aston Villa, Derby and Everton, said: "Muscat went across the top of the ball."

He was supported by then Wolves boss Colin Lee, who said: "Bruce was saying we have to stamp that out of the game and I agree with him.

"If he has gone over the top we will have to investigate. I wouldn't want any player in my team going out to break an opponent's leg."

Muscat was the centre of controversy again when midfielder Andy Johnson was sent off playing for Nottingham Forest against Wolves last season.

He punched Muscat during Wolves' 2-0 win, and declared: "Muscat is a horrible player.

"He kicked me off the ball three times and then elbowed me in the head and I stupidly lost my rag."

The last word, however, should go to Birmingham City's Martin Grainger, no shrinking violet himself when it comes to putting in a tackle.

He was unequivocal in his criticism - but issued a chilling warning that Muscat may one day face a large dose of what many regard as his own favourite medicine.

Grainger said: "He is probably the most hated man in football.

"The bottom line is what goes around comes around. There will be someone nastier who will get him one day."

Grainger's outburst came after a challenge by Muscat on his own Australia team-mate Stan Lazaridis.

Lazaridis was in more generous mood, insisting: "He's a committed player. I'm sure the Wolves players and fans love him."

They might - but there are others who think about Kevin Muscat with anything other than affection.

And the name of Christophe Dugarry can now be added to the list.

See also:

12 Nov 01 |  World Cup 2002
Pires accused of spitting
11 Nov 01 |  World Cup 2002
Socceroos hold France
07 Mar 01 |  Football
Football's wind-up merchants
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