Bolt makes respectable Mariners debut

Usain Bolt made a high-profile debut for the Mariners as a second half substitute in Gosford.
Usain Bolt made a high-profile debut for the Mariners as a second half substitute in Gosford.

He's the fastest man in the world, but track legend Usain Bolt is prepared to take his time, after a first football cameo appearance for A-League club Central Coast Mariners on Friday.

The Olympic 100 and 200 metres champion predicted it would take four months for him to reach his best and was confident he would secure a contract with the Mariners by then.

Bolt played just over 20 minutes in the Mariners' 6-1 practice match win over a Central Coast football select side in Gosford.

Although it was widely known before the game that Bolt would make play a minor role in the match, the crowd of 9958 was around 2,500 higher than the Mariners' average home attendance last season.

Bolt's global appeal was underlined by the fact around 60 countries took live television coverage of the game, which was shown in Africa, Asia and Europe.

He showed the odd nice touch and the confidence to take men on, but also occasionally struggled with his ball control and appeared to have difficulty reading the play and where his teammates passes were going.

The Jamaican initially took up a position on the left wing, but had no joy with his first touch, as the ball clipped the back of one of his colourful boots.

He enjoyed a couple of good moments, releasing Jack Clisby down the left-hand side and on another occasion beating a man before losing the ball.

Bolt was quickly moved into a more central position, with a number of crosses falling tantalisingly close to him.

He narrowly failed to reach a far post cross and then had a stoppage time shot blocked.

'I think the first 15 was pretty good, the last five I could feel my back getting a little bit tight. But overalI wasn't too tired so that's a good sign,' Bolt said.

"In four months' time I'll be fit. I'll be getting a lot more time on the ball, I personally feel I will get a contract by then.

"I'll be playing much more time, it's just about working and taking my time."

Mulvey also acknowledged Bolt was till some way off peak fitness but has said he is prepared to give him 12 months to prove himself.

"I think the big fellow did OK," Mulvey said of Bolt.

"He was on a hiding to nothing a little bit nervous, but I'm quite happy with him.'

Bolt endeared himself to fans even before he came on to the pitch, touching hands with several of them when warming up down the sideline in the first half.

He wore 95 on his shirt, a reference to his 100-metre world record time of 9.58 set in Berlin nine years ago.

Australian Associated Press