VAN NIS­TEL­ROOY BACKS BOLT

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FOOTBALL - EMMA KEMP

IN terms of fin­ish­ing, praise doesn’t come from many higher sources than Ruud van Nis­tel­rooy.

The Dutch great, one of the most ruth­less strik­ers of his gen­er­a­tion and the rea­son Usain Bolt started sup­port­ing Manch­ester United, liked what he saw of the Ja­maican track leg­end’s maiden Mariners goal.

“Great move­ment and fin­ish!” van Nis­tel­rooy tweeted.

Oth­ers abroad took no­tice too, and for­mer As­ton Villa mid­fielder Ian Tay­lor was sur­prised the through ball for Bolt’s big mo­ment had come from Villa loa­nee Ross McCor­mack.

“Never thought I’d see Ross McCor­mack pro­vid­ing an as­sist for Usain Bolt,” Tay­lor wrote.

De­spite his over­all un­re­mark­able per­for­mance, Bolt’s brace in Fri­day night’s 4-0 win over a Macarthur South West United side quickly went vi­ral.

By yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, the Mariners’ video of the first goal had gar­nered 4.8 mil­lions views and 21,000 Twit­ter likes.

Bolt’s own post of the strong run and neat fin­ish amassed 25,000 retweets and 93,000 likes. Oth­ers on so­cial me­dia quipped the world’s fastest man now has more goals this sea­son than strug­gling United star Alexis Sanchez.

Yet for all the high-pro­file praise, the only man whose opin­ion re­ally mat­ters was not get­ting car­ried away by the ALeague hope­ful’s start­ing de­but.

Mariners coach Mike Mul­vey did take his hat off to the 32-year-old, who “to his great credit has learnt and im­proved”.

But he of­fered no in­di­ca­tion Bolt’s name would be on the sheet for the sea­son-opener away to Bris­bane next Sun­day.

Nor, in­deed, was he will­ing to bring for­ward the Jan­uary time­frame he’d set to as­sess his fa­mous tri­al­ist’s progress.

“No, I think we’re all in agree­ment we’ll look about Jan­uary,” Mul­vey said. “You can’t just re­act to some­thing that’s just hap­pened right in front of us. If this had been last night it would have been a dif­fer­ent story.”

The night prior, a starkly dif­fer­ent Cen­tral Coast line-up lost 2-0 to Syd­ney FC in a be­hind-closed-doors friendly.

The key dif­fer­ence was that, un­like Bolt’s hit-out against some promis­ing NPL play­ers, the Sky Blues are A-League op­po­si­tion and an­other sig­nif­i­cant step up for a foot­baller of Bolt’s in­ex­per­tise.

“You don’t get caught in the head­lights, he’s an­other player,” Mul­vey said. “He is a sup- er­star, I un­der­stand that, and it’s no dis­re­spect what­so­ever.

“He’s a beau­ti­ful hu­man be­ing, a hum­ble guy, and he’s re­ally mixed in with ev­ery­body fan­tas­ti­cally well. And he scored a cou­ple of goals. He’s still got a long way to go.”

That was the gen­eral con­sen­sus and for­mer Soc­ceroos goal­keeper Mark Bos­nich de­scribed Bolt’s first touch as poor and noted “a slight im­prove­ment but not very much”.

Bolt is hop­ing he’ll soon get more clar­ity on his prospects at the club but felt he needs more match ex­pe­ri­ence.

“If I get to play with them more I’ll un­der­stand the game, the pace of the game, I’ll know what I need to do to get bet­ter,” he said. “You can train all you want, but if you don’t get play­ing time … if you train, yes, but when you’re on the field it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent.”

The ques­tion now is: How he can best ob­tain it?

Mul­vey might have con­sid­ered play­ing him in the Na­tional Youth League, which kicks off in an­other month, how­ever Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion Aus­tralia rules stip­u­late over-age play­ers are only el­i­gi­ble if they have an A-League con­tract.

“My main mis­sion is Bris­bane next week,” Mul­vey said.

“That’s al­ways been the aim, get the pre-sea­son done prop­erly, make sure we’re fit, strong and ready to go, and have com­pe­ti­tion for places.”

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