Archie Thompson gave a glimpse into how highly he rates Kevin Muscat by describing him as one of Australia’s finest football servants.
The pair have been Melbourne Victory team-mates for the past six seasons and before that featured alongside each other at international level with the Socceroos.
In fact, it was the national team which brought Thompson and Muscat together for the first time in April 2001.
Muscat had the captain’s armband for the opening stages of the World Cup Qualifying campaign that pitted the Socceroos against Tonga, American Samoa, Fiji and Western Samoa in Coffs Harbour.
Thompson was a keen 22-year-old playing with Marconi in the old National Soccer League when called into the squad by coach Frank Farina, having made his international debut two months earlier against Colombia.
“I’d heard a lot about Kevin by reputation, but coming into my first Socceroos camp I was in awe of most of the boys who were there,” Thompson said.
“I came in when the likes of Moorey (Craig Moore) and Musky were at the pinnacles of their careers – I just tried to get there and see what these guys were all about.”
It was during that campaign that Thompson set a new international goal scoring record when he hit 13 goals in a 31-0 demolition of American Samoa.
For the record, seven different Socceroos scored that night, but not skipper Muscat, who didn’t have a whole lot to do at the back.
Fast forward four years and Thompson was banging in the goals for Belgian outfit Lierse when he received a call asking he wanted to join Melbourne Victory, a start-up club in the new A-League competition.
“When I spoke to Ernie (Merrick) he was in talks with Musky and Danny (Allsopp) at the time, we were all pretty sceptical about coming back knowing how the old NSL was,” Thompson said.
“But for me it was the best move I ever made, probably Musky and Danny have the same feelings.”
“Just winning the championships with him was a big thrill for me, and for Kev too. The sacrifices we made coming back, not knowing where we were going to be or how the league was going to be.”
“Knowing how hard the road was, those championships proved a big highlight for me with Kev.”
Thompson described Muscat’s leadership as a key plank for the foundation Victory’s success was built on and believes he is the greatest captain he’s played under.
“As soon as he crosses the white line he’s a different Kev who wants to win and won’t take any excuses from anyone,” Thompson said.
“You have to put in and I think that’s why his leadership qualities are so good and have been so good for our club. You want to win for him, you see the effort he puts in and you want to replicate that.”
“When the crunch is there he steps up and that’s why he is such a big player for us. He’s all about the team and will be sorely missed. He brings the team together and it’s hard to find those sort of players.”
“I have been fortunate and Melbourne Victory’s been fortunate to have a player like Kevin.”
Thompson declared Muscat’s Victory team-mates want to give him the perfect send-off in his final game on Australian soil – Wednesday night’s AFC Champions League clash against Gamba Osaka at Etihad Stadium.
“You see a lot of great Socceroos players who have retired and gone under the radar, and didn’t get the accolades they deserved,” Thompson said.
“I think this being the last game for Kev on home soil and the importance of the game for us as a team, there will be a few people to come out and support it whether they follow Victory or not.”
“Kevin’s been huge for the game, played so many games for the Socceroos, I know the crowd will be there to give him the farewell he deserves.”