Mariners insist they’ll give Bolt time
FRIDAY night's Gosford spectacular was undeniably fabulous, an exposure magnet thrusting Central Coast and the A-League onto the global map.
It offered far less clarity about the outcome of Usain Bolt's grand football designs.
For despite the crowd of nearly 10,000 and the fact Australia's domestic competition is finally back in the headlines, Bolt's Mariners debut delivered a less-than-convincing verdict.
Bolt himself said he'd need just four months to get up to scratch, that "I personally feel I'll get a contract by then".
Former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Bosnich predicted it would take a lot longer.
"You mention about fitness, forget about that, he needs a lot of work on his skills," the Fox Sports pundit said.
"He said four to five months but the question is are they willing to stand by him and make sure he gets to that level?
"We heard Mike Mulvey say they're willing to give him 12 months but they're going to have to be very patient with him. That was quite apparent in that 20 minutes."
Whether the Mariners will persist with Bolt indefinitely is one thing. The other unknown is if the 32-year-old eight-time Olympic gold medallist is prepared to stick with it longer than his self-allotted time frame.
Sceptics reckon he'll have jetted off before the start of the season.
Mariners assistant coach Nick Montgomery is not one of them.
Montgomery pleaded patience, emphasising the extent to which football and track and field are "worlds apart" and foreseeing improvements.
"He was quite open and honest, he said he's giving himself four months to get up to the level," he said.
"That's normal for an athlete who's not done that much over the last six to 12 months and coming to a new sport.
"It will take a while for him to adapt to that, but me and the gaffer were really proud of what he did in such a short space of time.
"We'll just manage it as it is. It could take four months, it could take 12, but only time will tell.
"For now it was good for him to get the 20 minutes and realise himself where he's at, because the one person who'll know where he is and how far away he is is Usain himself.
"Everyone's going to have their opinion but that's the beauty of sport."
Montgomery has witnessed first hand the benefits Bolt brings to the squad, not to mention the "astronomical" publicity boost.
"It's been crazy, absolutely crazy," he said.
"The amount of messages I've had (from the UK), my wife and everybody."
Fox Sports' live coverage audience peaked at 89,000 when Bolt came off the bench and overall reached more than 170,000 unique viewers.
That was just in Australia - the broadcast was syndicated across 40 countries, a fact highlighted when CNN International interviewed Bolt on his cameo and in the way FIFA tweeted congratulations on his "professional debut".
As it happened, so did Pele, who quipped "there will be quite a few Australian defenders thinking about retiring from the game today".
Certainly not the Central Coast Select backline who, despite losing to the Mariners 6-1, were well within their capabilities against the world's fastest man.
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