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Mike Mulvey has rejected suggestions that Usain Bolt is blocking opportunities for actual footballers to trial for an A-League contract with the Central Coast Mariners.
The club’s decision to allow Bolt to train with the Mariners first team for an “indefinite” period has made headlines around the world but has been met with a mixed reaction in Australian soccer circles.
Some view it as a shameless gimmick at a time when A-League clubs should be looking closer at young Australian players, particularly those toiling away in state-based NPL competitions.
But Mulvey said those criticisms did not hold up to scrutiny, pointing to Central Coast’s recruitment of Jordan Murray and Josh McDonald direct from the NSW NPL this week.
“We’re (already) signing some players from the NPL, we’re giving them an opportunity,” Mulvey told AAP.
“We’ve trialled over three dozen players from the NPL. We’ve trialled professional players.
“I’m looking at the A-League now, we’re 14 years old and it’s a bit like a washing machine – players are being spat out from one club and going to another club. Some people have had five or six clubs in that 14 years.
“We’re trying something different.”
Mulvey said Bolt’s presence was a “fantastic” opportunity for the club, the local community and the competition at large.
“He’s chosen the Central Coast Mariners over many other options that he had to come and train with us. We’re happy to have him here,” he said.
And Mulvey said the venture was entirely “self-funded”, insisting the Jamaican sprint king was not sucking up funds from elsewhere in the Mariners operation.
He was also adamant the inevitable media circus that will follow Bolt won’t distract his players from their mission to restore the club’s A-League credibility after missing the finals for four straight seasons.
“The players are very focused. We’ve got a great group of guys and they understand what their job is. That will not change,” Mulvey said.
“Nobody or nothing will take away from what we’re trying to do here.”