Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick has thrown his full support behind Usain Bolt playing in the A-League and believes the Jamaican’s association has been "one of the best things that's happened" to the A-League.
Merrick’s comments come as the star Mariners triallist has reportedly been linked with a move to Maltese club Valletta FC.
However, a Central Coast senior club source described Bolt exit talk to The World Game as “totally wrong and without foundation”.
Bolt’s dalliance with the Mariners has been both heavily praised and panned from different sections of the football community.
The 32-year-old struggled in his first outing off the bench against a Central Coast Select side in August, but then grabbed a brace last Friday in a trial match against Macarthur South West United.
Video of his first goal on Friday has been watched more than six million times on Central Coast’s Twitter page.
Bolt’s training stint with the Mariners has resulted in huge publicity around the world, while opinion remains mixed on his footballing ability.
Merrick, who grew up in a family of circus performers, declined to describe the former Olympic champion’s spell in Australia as a “circus”, and believes it has done wonders for the A-League.
“I wouldn’t call it a circus. I think it’s one of the best things that’s happened, seriously, to the A-League,” Jets coach Merrick told The World Game.
“I think all of us would love to see him sign with the Mariners and do well. Everyone I’ve spoken to, I’d love to see him sign at the Mariners and do well, probably off the bench or whatever.
“But he has done so much for the A-League, he’s got publicity and advertising the FFA could never afford. And he’s put the Central Coast on the map and from what I hear, he’s just a great bloke.
“I think it’s been… I certainly wouldn’t call it an experiment, I think it’s been a good project and it’s been exciting, it’s a credit to the club for taking it on and they feel they’ve got more signings through it with other players hearing about the Mariners and wanting to come over.
“I think we all think it would be a good thing to happen, I’m not sure if it will or it won’t. Obviously there’s financial concerns and a whole range of other things – technical ability, fitness – but I think it’s been very good for the A-League.”
However, Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop insists there's no chance of using the marquee fund to meet Bolt's contract demands as its purpose was to attract proven world-class players.
"If they get to that (signing) point then we'll look at what's feasible for us but it can't be for the marquee player fund," Gallop told Macquarie Sports Radio.
"We don't want to compromise what that's put in place for."
Meanwhile, Merrick is readying his Newcastle team for round one of the A-League with a trip to New Zealand to take on Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.
The 65-year-old spent three years in charge of the Phoenix and is expecting a tough encounter against his old club in their season opener.
Wellington have a new coach in Mark Rudan and have made a number of overseas signings in former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor, Spanish midfielder Mandi, and Polish duo Michal Kopczynski and Filip Kurto.
“Our first two games are away, Wellington and then Adelaide. Without being too concerned about opposition teams, but everyone’s improved,” Merrick said.
“Wellington have signed some good players. Even though we’ve signed good players, we know other teams have as well. So we know the league’s going to be at a higher standard.
“We don’t know where they’re [the Phoenix] at, we’ve seen obviously on other teams playing pre-season games and where they’re at, but it all comes down to how you perform in the competition.
“I know it’s not going to be easy flying across the ditch and playing Wellington. I think it will be a tough game but it’s probably good to play that type of game early on in the season so you get that sort of travel.
“We go over there twice this season so we can get one out of the way and get started.”