Former A-League coach Ernie Merrick admits his relationship with one-time protege Kevin Muscat has had its issues.
Despite Merrick guiding Melbourne Victory to success while Muscat was a player, the two began clashing when the latter also moved into coaching.
The duo infamously faced off in the 2018 A-League grand final with Muscat’s Victory controversially claiming a 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets following a VAR malfunction.
After the match, Merrick claimed Muscat avoided a handshake at full-time with the pair also at odds in the build-up to the game as they opted against doing a joint press conference.
“I walked over to the bench to shake hands as I did with the assistant coach, the goalkeeping coach, the fitness coach but Kevin sprinted in the opposite direction over to his fans and I wasn’t going to chase him. But that’s just the way he is,” Merrick said at the time.
“I was looking forward to a handshake. He’s the one that disappeared, I mean I don’t make a big thing of it but it’s just disappointing, really. He won the game, should be happy.”
Muscat did refute those claims he snubbed Merrick but there was clearly no love lost between the two.
Speaking nearly three years later, Merrick stressed that though their relationship has frayed and they aren’t best friends, he and Muscat aren’t fierce enemies either.
“I think you might be reading too much into it – it’s not Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson,” Merrick said on the Football From A to Z Podcast.
“You have a relationship with the players and it’s sometimes a bit stand-offish. A respectful relationship, you don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, but you like to understand you have a friendly relationship.
“I think Kevin’s just very competitive and does and says the wrong thing at times. At times, I’ve been a little bit offended and other times I’ve just ignored it.
“So it’s been built up by the press and by me. I just don’t think you can stay best friends with everyone for the rest of your days.”