Usain Bolt: Treat me like one of the boys

After his first training session with the Central Coast Mariners, Usain Bolt and Head Coach Mike Mulvey fronted the biggest press contingent the Central Coast has ever seen.

Let’s take a look at some of the key quotes from their joint press conference.

On his first day of his challenge to become a professional footballer…     

“For me it’s just like track and field, the first day of training is always the roughest one. You can tell how much work you need to put in, what you need to do but it felt ok. I know it’s going to take time and work, and I’m ready to work.

On personal pride influencing his decision…

“For me I’m not setting myself any targets just to say, alright, this is what I’m going to do. I’m just gonna put in the work. This is my first chance of getting the chance to train get to a level to play as a professional footballer, so I don’t know what to expect. I’m just here to push myself learn as much as possible. I told the coach from the start, listen - I’m here with a blank slate no matter what I’ve learned or what I’ve seen on TV, for me it’s a blank slate. I’m here to learn and get better and that’s my focus.

On why he chose Central Coast Mariners…

“For me, we got offers from teams in Spain, France and stuff like that. But for me it would be harder because you have to learn a new language. It wasn’t in the top division. But Australia is somewhere where I enjoy coming. You guys know me and follow my career, I’ve come to Australia a lot and for me the Mariners decided to give me an opportunity and I’m very grateful for it. I’m just here to make them proud and to make myself proud.

On how he’ll be measuring success…

“I’m just trying to get over the first hurdle first and that is to get a contract and to get fit and ready to push myself, to be the best. That’s my first hurdle, after that I’ll see what level I’m at, I’ll talk to the coach, I’ll talk to the fitness trainer and everybody and see what level I’m at, what level I need to work to get towards and then I can determine what my goal will be for the season. But I’ll try to get over the first hurdle and that’s to prove to the coaching staff of the Mariners that I deserve to have a contract.

On what he can give the team on the pitch…

“As you’ve seen throughout the years, I’m cool under pressure. That’s one thing if you’ve seen me over the years. I think my ability to understand very quickly and to learn the game is something that I’m very good at. I think I see the game very well. I have to work on the basic skills, I think I’m good at control and stuff like that. But there’s things that I need to learn and that’s why I’m here. I’m excited for the opportunity.

On where he fits in the team…

“That’s all up to the coach. I can express that I’m ok on the wing I’m good at centre forward but at the end of the day he’s the coach, he’ll determine where I’ll play or what formation.

On the welcome he’s received…

“It’s been good, it’s been a warm welcome. Everybody has given me a lot of love, respect and I really enjoy that. The coaches explain to me that there won’t be any special treatment, they will treat me just like a footballer should be treated. It will help me as much as they possibly can, and for me I expect nothing but that. I want to be treated as one of the boys, I don’t want to be treated like I’m the world’s fastest man, I want to be treated as a footballer, because that’s what I want to be.

On first day nerves and whether he prepared back home…

“Today was good. We’re taking it a step at the time, level by level day by day. And then we’ll push myself. When I was home I did a little bit of work. One of my closest friends is Bibi Gardener, who used to play for Bolton, so he coaches a team now in Jamaica so I work with him a little bit.

On the idea that this is a gimmick…

“I’m here. People are always going to say what they want to say. Just like when I was in track and field, people would say a lot of things about me but I always proved them wrong so it’s just another moment for me to prove people wrong. As I said, I’m not setting any standards, I’m just working, pushing myself and when I feel like I’ve done enough I’ll ask the coach how do I look? What do I need to work on? Do you feel like I can continue this? Do you feel like I need to push more? What can I do to be better? That’s my focus, I don’t care what people say.

On whether he’ll be upset if Mike Mulvey deems him not good enough…

“No, I won’t. He’s a coach. He’s been doing this for years. He’s seen many players and coached many players. So I personally think he knows what it takes to become a footballer.

On the challenge of football’s physicality…

“As long as you get fit in football, I think it’s relatively easy, that’s how I look at it. I don’t know yet. With track and field in the early season when you get fit, no matter what’s going on during the season every training session you’re dying. But watching the guys and being to different teams I’ve seen as long as you’re fit comes relatively easy with the running. So as long as I get my body in good shape and I get my body under some mileage I should be fine.

Mike Mulvey

On the first day…

“It’s just the first day. All these people are here today, hopefully you come back normally, when we’re normally training. But the glare was on him, he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t have a little bit of nerves and said ‘no I didn’t have any nerves’. He’s a fantastic athlete and were absolutely delighted to have him here with us.

On whether he feels any pressure…

“When I first took the job it was a difficult job obviously. The position on the ladder for the last four years has been not what was required. And if you look at this community we’ve actually overachieved in the last fourteen years, got to four grand finals. So, there’s a rebuilding phase that needs to be done. The club was actually in a failing capacity and not just that, we were accepting of it saying, ‘we’ll finish 10th there’s no promotion or relegation’, so I needed to lift the bar a little bit. And we needed to be innovative and creative, and the chairman’s on board with that, he wants to be innovative and creative. How much more innovative and creative can you get than bringing Usain Bolt to trial?

Back to Bolt

On the transition from an individual sport from a team sport…

“If you followed my career I’ve always said that one of my all-time best moments is always running the 4x100 because in an individual sport with track and field and I enjoy running with my teammates so for me to come into a team now it’s just wonderful. There’s going to be a lot of banter, a lot of fun. I’m learning the rules right now, because there’s a lot of fines – the captain is really strict on that. So, I’m just looking forward to it, I know it’s going to be fun and I’m going to enjoy the journey.

On whether he has set a timeline for making it…

“No. I don’t know. I’m just going to push myself, that’s all I can do – just work hard, push myself. I’m treating this like any other sport. Just like track and field to get fit, that’s my aim right now is to get fit, get a lot of touches of the football, play a lot more as much as possible and just get better and sharper and along the way just learn as much as I possibly can. So, when the time comes to give me a chance to put me on the field, I’ll be ready.

On training in tracksuit pants…

“Yeah, at the start it was really cold but after I got going and running I took the top off and stuff so it wasn’t that cold after you get going. It’s coming out of winter now so I’ll be fine. It’s getting hot soon so I’ll be in my element.

On whether he’ll feature in the trial game on August 31...

“Again, I don’t know. I’m just going to put the work in and at the end of the day it’s the coach’s decision to decide that if he wants to see more 5 or 10 minutes or 20 minutes or you’ll wait until another time. I’m here to do my best, to put my work in and when it’s time I get my chance I can take it.

On whether he’ll do the lightning bolt celebration if he scores a HAL goal…

“Yeah, you’ll definitely see that, I’ll mix it up but you’ll definitely see that. That’s my signature, that won’t change.

Mike Mulvey: On Bolt featuring in Maitland on the weekend…

“What I want to stress is this is not ‘we’ve got to make a decision tomorrow or the next day’. We’re absolutely delighted that Usain has chosen this club, this delightful community in the Central Coast to actually further his ambition. So if it takes 12 months, I’m happy for him to be here. He’s already brought the biggest throng of media to this area, the highlight and spotlight is on Central Coast, it’s on the people within the Central Coast and I think that’s fantastic, it’s all fine with me. Whether he plays at Maitland, probably not I would say right now because he’s only just here. But maybe on the 31st, we’ve got a game here, I think he’ll be ready for that.

Usain Bolt: On whether he feels out of his comfort zone…

“Yeah, I’m definitely out of my comfort zone, but that’s why you train. This is why I’m here, to get better and to get comfortable, to play and I’m gonna learn a lot from all the players. Kali (Cisse) we’ve talked a lot because he’s just come back from injury, we’ve started to work together so far, we spoke a lot about plays and what he feels the best motion is. He understands it so he has explained to me how they play here so I’m just learning, that’s it. I’m just learning and picking up things and I’m sure it’ll get better and more comfortable with the more games I play and the more I train.

On whether he’ll be living it up, will it be tough being in bed early every night…

“At the start, definitely. It’s the truth, I’m not going to lie. I have to get fit, I do want to enjoy the city and the life but I’m still going to remember that I’m a professional footballer now so I have to respect the rules and respect the coach and respect what rules the Mariners put down. I’m going to enjoy that as much as possible but I’m here to do a job and I’m ready to go.

MM: Is this the biggest challenge of your career?

“No. When I came in here the club was perennially on the bottom of the league, that’s a big enough challenge as it is. Someone asked me would Usain be a distraction. Well you don’t lower your trainings standards when Usain Bolt walks in the door. I think it’s really interesting, this guy’s a winner. How many medals has he won? Eight gold medals in the Olympics. You don’t do that by great ability, you do it by having great mental capacity. Now If he can pass on a little bit of that to my players, by saying we’re coming from the cellar to try and get to the top, this could be great for any of your young lads that we’ve signed. We’ve signed three players from the local NPL. They’re coming into their firs training session with Usain, but they’re thinking how much can I learn from this guy? How much can he take me on my journey? And that’s what we’re all about. We’ve recruited some very good individual players, with a great mentality and he only adds to it by his presence here. But like I say, he’s one of the lads. He doesn’t get any special treatment, there’s absolutely no way about that, because that’s not the way a team works. Any team that wins something they’re all together, there’s no special treatment and they understand what is required.

UB: On his footballing history…

“I started out as a keeper when I was in primary school and the faster I got the further I moved up the field, so in high school I played centre back, left back then I played left wing and by the end of my high school career I was playing centre forward. So, I played as much football as I could in high school because they didn’t allow me to because of track and field. When I got professional it was just with my friends, and for the last probably three years of my career I played six aside with all my friends twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursday so that’s something I’ve always done. I’ve always watched football, everyone knows I’m a massive Manchester United fan so I watch a lot of game I stay abreast with what’s going on.

On why becoming a professional footballer is so important to him…

“Because it’s something I want. I like new challenges, I challenge myself in track and field and I did extremely well, I go to the top and I decide it was time for me to walk away. Football has always been something that’s a passion of mine that I enjoy even when my coach at a professional level would say don’t play football, you can’t be playing football in the middle of the season, I still would play because it’s something that I enjoy. Now that I retired and I had the opportunity to play with a top team and to show what I can do, it’s something I want to challenge myself. For me this is a challenge and I always try to rise to my best when I challenge myself so that’s what I’m doing right now.

On how he’ll be with the locals…

“If you followed my career you’ll know that I’m all about the fans. I think the fans build clubs, build athletes – they really make sport what it is. I try to give my best back and to take pictures as much as possible just to have conversation, because sometimes all people want to do is have a conversation. Feel free to come up and say hi or whatever you want to say

On his ultimate football dream…

“I don’t know. I daydream all the time about big things. One of my biggest things is to play for Manchester United so I think that could be my biggest dream. You can’t get bigger than that, even if it was just for five games, one game it would be a dream come true. Because as I said I’m a massive fan. This is the start, I’m really appreciative of everything the Mariners have done they have given me the opportunity to make my mark, to start here and I’m very happy and I want to hank you guys for that. The people, I know you guys are going to support me a lot so I want to thank you and I look forward to scoring as many goals and to bringing home the trophy,” Bolt said.