The five biggest villains in A-League history

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While A-League fans have been mesmerised by some of the world’s best, think Alessandro Del Piero and Alessandro Diamante, those same fans will have been infuriated by the cynical tactics of some players who regularly bend (or break into a thousand pieces) the rules.

Sometimes these players did it out of passion and a will to win. Other times they were simply dirty. In order of madness, here are my five undisputed hard men of Australian football.

5. Matt Simon

A combative and highly effective target man on his day, Simon chases down every ball and defender as if it were a hot chip in a tourist’s hand at Circular Quay. That’s why he’s been affectionately nicknamed the ‘seagull’ by fans.

His tally of 55 cards as an A-League striker is equal to his goal tally, placing him as the most-carded striker in A-League history.

Despite this, Simon is a much-loved villain and the majority of his cards have come from a desire to win, rather than malice. Only two of his cards have been red.

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He became a cult hero during his time at Sydney FC and was famous for coming on in the dying stages of matches and collecting a token yellow card – often before touching the ball.

 

4. Joel Griffiths

Capped by the Socceroos, Griffiths was a lethal striker who won the Johnny Warren Medal in the 2007/8 season while playing for the Newcastle Jets.

He was a ball tearer in other ways, too. In 2007, he was caught literally grabbing the A-League by the balls (the tagline of thefootballsack.com.au), appearing to punch assistant referee Alex Glasgow in the ‘groin’. There was no VAR, and Griffiths somehow escaped with a yellow card. In another game, Griffiths got into hot water for abusing another assistant referee. This time he received a lengthy ban.

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3. Liam Reddy

Goalkeepers are strange creatures, and no list of villains would be complete without one. Step forward, Liam Reddy – the most capped keeper in the league’s history, and also the league’s most carded keeper with a total 25.

Reddy comes from a famous rugby league family. His father Rod played for Australia, while brother Joel played 136 NRL games. And he’s never been shy about bringing a bit of NRL to the A-League.

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In 2012 he was suspended for punching Matt Simon in a villain-on-villain clash. The same year his time at Sydney ended abruptly after he was caught drinking, allegedly drunk, on a flight to a finals match in New Zealand.

He was also sacked by Central Coast Mariners in 2015 for a series of undisclosed ‘off field issues’.

 

2. Nigel Boogaard

For a number of seasons in the A-League, the image of a red card became synonymous with the name Boogaard. A veteran A-League defender who played in the inaugural 2005/06 season, Boogaard has collected an astonishing nine red cards – a record for the league. In three seasons between 2013-2016, Boogard amassed six red cards and 19 cautions.

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To his credit, Boogaard has cleaned up his act and has not received a red card for a while. He has said that he needed to change his ways in order to continue playing. That’s not to say that Boogaard is a reformed Franz Beckenbauer: he collected eight yellow cards last season.

You’d think that Boogard’s record red card tally would get him to the top of my list. Of course, no – there is one player who is the undisputed villain of the A-League…

 

1. Kevin Muscat

Kevin Muscat – a highly accomplished defender who played 46 times for the Socceroos – was the epitome of a football villain, who too often let his competitive spirit go too far.

Even before returning to play in Australia he had a reputation for practising the dark arts. He was once called the “most hated man in football” by Birmingham City footballer Martin Grainger after an horrific challenge on Socceroos teammate Stan Lazaridis. And his tackle on Charlton Athletic’s Matt Holmes in 1998, whilst playing for Wolves, forced the player to retire. Holme’s surgeon stated that he was lucky to not have his leg amputated.

Playing in the A-League for Melbourne Victory, Muscat was a fearsome competitor. While his red card tally of five sits high for the amount of games he played, he was probably lucky to escape with so few. Many would say he had an uncanny knack of escaping punishment, whether for dangerous play or dissent.

Muscat was involved in many incidents, but a couple stand out. One was a famous sideline bust-up with then Adelaide United coach John Kosmina in 2006, in which Muscat knocked Kosmina out of his chair (Kosmina responded by grabbing Muscat by the throat).

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Then there was his tackle on Melbourne Heart winger Adrian Zahra in 2011, a young player with a bright future. Zahra beat Muscat with pace and skill, only for Muscat to bring him down with a two-footed scissor kick that required major knee surgery. Some say it is the worst tackle in A-League history.

A-League fans will forever remember Muscat as a football villain. Even as a coach in the A-League he was frequently booed by opposition fans at the sight of his image on the big screen.

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Adam Sheldon
Full time football addict. Passionate about any sport with balls. Covering Sydney FC A-League and W-League teams for the upcoming season.