Sprint superstar Usain Bolt is set to start for Central Coast Mariners in a final pre-season hit out in Campbelltown against a side coached by former Socceroo Nicky Carle next month.
Bolt put in 45 minutes in a behind closed doors match against North Shore Mariners yesterday and now Central Coast have lined up another game to let the public judge his progress since arriving.
But coach Mike Mulvey has admitted January is looking the soonest likely date Bolt will be offered a contract by the Mariners.
The club will now take on a Macarthur South West United select made up of the best local NPL players from Sydney Olympic FC, Sydney United 58 FC, SD Raiders FC & Macarthur Rams FC on October 12 at Campbelltown Stadium.
The match will be for the Shake It Up Cup in partnership with The Michael J. Fox Foundation in aid of Parkinson’s disease research in Australia.
The Macarthur South West United team will also act as a a showcase for the region’s bid to join the A-League next year. Tickets are on sale now and local juniors will go free with a discount for accompanying adults.
T’m definitely excited and if I get to start it will be a big thing for me,” Bolt said. “It would show that the work that I’ve been putting in is really paying off and the coach has confidence in me.
"So that would be a big step for me. Playing 45 minutes for me was good, in the last 10 minutes I started to get tired but I pushed through and that’s because of training.
“I feel like I’m improving. My touch is getting better, I’ve got a while to go but with more training and more dedication to my craft I will be fine.
“Getting more minutes in games is the aim. I think that’s the aim for any football player, you want to play as much as you can. For me, I am really looking forward to October 12 and like always, going out there and doing my best. Hopefully my best is good enough."
Bolt is even looking to get on the scoresheet on this outing.
He added: “For me to score, it would be a big thing.
"Central Coast Mariners took a chance on me and the best way that I can pay them back is to score goals. If I could score a goal for this club, that would mean I am heading in the right direction and showing the club that their chance in me is paying off.
"It would take a lot of pressure off me, as an attacker it’s something that would be good but for me I am just going to work, push myself and hope everything comes together when it matters."
Mariners coach Mike Mulvey welcomed the game as a final chance to get his preparations in place for the season ahead.
“This is an important game in our pre-season, we’re getting into the nitty gritty now,” Mulvey said. “You need to make sure all your preparations are done so that you’re ready to go come round one so this is a very important game.
“It will be a great occasion. It’s a chance for the region to show their passion for football and also an opportunity to cheer on their local players against an A-League opposition.
“Usain is progressing and that’s the main thing. From the outset, we said he needed time, we said we would give him 12 months if need be.
"A reasonable assumption would be that around January we should be judging where he’s at. We’re going to be ramping up our individual sessions with him over the next few weeks, so he will be given every opportunity.”
The match date almost tempted rival coach Carle out of retirement.
“I am jealous I wish I was playing,” he said. “How great is this going to be?
"Not just for our community but for the local NPL players dreaming of one day playing in the Hyundai A-League and to say they have played against Usain Bolt is something they will never forget.”
Macarthur South West United bid chairman Gino Marra added: “I’m excited to have one of the world’s greatest athletes playing a trial game in our region.
“As a Football fanatic, I can’t wait to see Usain do his stuff on the field. It’s also exciting to have the Central Coast Mariners chose our region for Usain’s next game.
"This is also a great opportunity for our local NPL players not only to play against a Hyundai A-League side but also against one of the world’s highest profile athletes."