The Usain Bolt-era in the A-League has officially begun after the 100m world record holder took to the field for his first training session with his potential new Central Coast Mariner teammates on Tuesday.
The 32-year-old mooted a move to the A-League earlier in the month but the wheels are now in motion for what could be the highest profile code switch in sporting history.
Those looking to wager on the Bolt can rejoice because online bookmaker Sportsbet has joined the party.
Account holders can get a return of $2 for Bolt to play in the Mariners in their season opener against the Brisbane Roar on October 21. For those looking to play the long game, surprisingly low odds of $6 are up for Bolt to score at anytime during his A-League tenure, while an ill-disciplined red card is at the $12 mark.
The training session was a routine one for the Mariners, but the fanfare was at fever pitch for the Olympic gold medallist. Bolt slowly went through his paces in Gosford and was understandably tentative and nervous when over the ball.
Reports from the session suggested that Bolt showed glimpses of good control, but he often allowed the ball to come to him rather than come forward to gather possession.
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Bolt said his tilt towards an unlikely A-League berth is an ongoing process.
“It’s just like track and field — the first day of training is always the toughest one. But it felt OK, you know,” Bolt said at a press conference afterwards.
“Today was good. We’re taking it a step at a time … level by level, day by day and then I will push myself.”
Despite the optimism from Bolt in the aftermath of his first ever session, not everyone was glowing of the 32-year-old’s prospects.
Fox Sports Australia’s Adam Peacock said Bolt has a long way to go.
“He’s all left. He doesn’t want to know about kicking with his right at the moment,” Peacock told Fox Sports News.
The commentator did stress however that it is unfair to judge him on one session.
“Let’s just give him some time.”
The challenge now lies in front of Bolt to prove he is worthy of a place on the Mariners’ squad. There is exactly two months until the Central Coast kick off their season against The Brisbane Roar on October 21.
Bolt said he always harboured ambitions of playing soccer once his running career had ended.
“I’ve said it since my last season of track and field that I want to play football,” he said.
“I know what I’m capable of, I know what I can do.
“This is real. I’ve told the world that I want to be a footballer and I know what I can do for the Mariners who are giving me the opportunity to show what I’m capable of.
“As you all know I love Australia so I’m happy to call Australia home for now.”
Can anyone make up ground on premiers-elect Sydney FC? We’ve got the top odds, value bets & A-League specials from Australia’s best online bookmakers.
This weekend’s sporting multi features tips from the A-League, Premier League, NBA and NFL – we find the best bets from each league and throw them together.
The original A-League rivalry kicks off again this weekend when the Melbourne Victory host Sydney FC. Get your info, news, odds and free tips right here.
A blistering 2014-15 A-League season where the dominant Melbourne Victory finished the season as Premiers and champions is a distant memory.
A new season brings a clean slate as the Victory become the hunted.
We’ll take a look at all the odds on the grand final winner, minor premiership, wooden spoon and golden boot winners and see if we can’t make a few fruitful predictions.
We’ll look at the five favourites closely and then glance over the five wannabes.
Last year: Champions, Premiers
Title odds: $3.85
The champions Melbourne Victory are the hot $3.85 favourites to go back to back.
The Victory tore apart Sydney FC in last season’s grand final and there is an air of the untouchable about them in 2015-16.
Kevin Muscat’s men have welcomed dogged defender Danny Vukovic, but will have to cover for the loss of Mark Milligan.
Fortunately, gun midfielder Oliver Bozanic will step in to fill Milligan’s void. He’s a wonderful attacking midfielder who has the ability to thread the needle and should form a strong partnership next to Carl Valeri.
Olyroo Giancarlo Gallifuoco at just 21 could be the man to partner Matthieu Delpierre in the centre of defence, with the injury to Nick Ansell.
The strike force of superstar Besart Berisha, Kostas Barbarouses and Fahid Ben Kalfallah, with Gui Finkler behind them, is undoubtedly the best in the competition and this side is going to score plenty of goals.
One thing that could throw a spanner in the works for Victory is if they go deep in the Asian Champions League. That adds more game time to the squad, meaning more work for the club’s stars.
Suggested bet: Victory to win the title ($3.85 with CrownBet.com.au) – If everything goes to plan, no one touches this side. On the verge of something great.
Last year: Second, runner up
Title odds: $5
The CrownBet crew has the losing grand finalists Sydney FC next on the line of betting at $5.
The Sky Blues have had several changes in the off season, but none bigger than the loss of the competition’s leading goal scorer, Mark Janko.
Janko fired in 16 goals last season and his defection to Basel leaves a massive hole to fill for Graham Arnold’s men.
They will be hoping Besiktas striker front man Filip Holosko can fill the void.
The new marquee man has 65 caps for Slovenia and scored 42 goals in his eight year stay with the Turkish giants.
He should fit in well in the A-League.
Arnold’s focus might be a little off as his side is set to kick off this weekend.
There’s talk he could be headed to Europe, with prime candidate for the newly vacated Liverpool job Guus Hiddink believed to have sounded the master manager out over an assistant job, should he be installed at The Kop. There is also talk that a president from one of the clubs he played for in either Belgium or the Netherlands has been in touch and could be preparing an offer.
The road warriors will again rely on Vedran Janjetovic to be a boss in goal, the number one keeping the most clean sheets last season and Milos Ninkovic looks the goods.
Suggested bet: Filip Holosko to win the golden boot ($9 with WilliamHill) – Much will be asked of the international striker and he will need to deliver if he doesn’t want to cop the wrath of the Sky Blues’ faithful.
Last season: Fifth
Title odds: $6.50
Expectation can be a harsh mistress when reality sets in. City was, at one point, the title favourite. They had a raft of star players from overseas who were expected to take the league by storm. It didn’t quite pan out. They scraped into the finals and did ok to make it past the Wellington Phoenix, but were then whacked by eventual champions Melbourne Victory.
If there was a lot of expectation last season, it’s through the roof this year.
Will coach John van ’t Schip be able to handle the pressure?
New goal keeper Thomas Sorensen is expected to bring top line talent to the position, something City/Heart has not had for some time, but it is Socceroo Aaron Mooy who holds all the aces for the “other” Melbourne team.
Mooy might have tried his luck in the big Euro leagues, but he’s stuck fast with City and they will be the beneficiaries.
He’s the cream of a midfield crop that includes Erik Paartalu and Robert Koren.
Koren, the side’s marquee Slovenian international, reckons he was played out of position up front last season and the onus will be on him if van ’t Schip decides to give him more time in midfield, where he prefers to play.
The likes of Ivan Franjic, Sorensen, Aaron Hughes, Patrick Kisnorbo and Michael Zullo, who make up a mean back five, each having played for their nation.
This side can win the title. It has the pieces, but it’s up to van ’t Schip to come up with the formula.
Suggested bet: Corey Gameiro to win the golden boot ($17 with CrownBet) – Once contracted by Fulham, this kid started last season in a blaze of glory in Sydney. Can he take the next step for City?
Last season: Third
Title odds: $7.50
The FFA Cup winners fell at the penultimate hurdle in the A-League last season, but will no doubt be hit hard by the shock departure of inspiring boss Josep Gombau.
Gombau was a fan – and journalists – favourite, with his witty lines delivered in a thick accent, and new coach Guillermo Armor will have some huge shoes to fill.
They are already out of the FFA Cup, so they only have to concentrate on the A-League.
The key for United is the midfield.
It is as good as any, with the supremely talented Marcelo Carrusca joined by star men Sergio Cirio and Isaias.
Man mountain Bruce Djite started off last season firing in goals just about every week, but then went a bit quiet. He will want to bounce back with Pablo Sanchez and new man Eli Babalj waiting in the wings.
Awer Mabil is a big loss. He produced moments of magic for them last season and his pace down the wing will be missed.
Armor will probably have a bit of grace, considering the man he replaced was so beloved, but he will need to produce results to keep the Reds fans happy.
Suggested bet: Marcelo Carrusca to win the Johnny Warren Medal ($6 with WilliamHill.com.au) – Arguably the best midfielder in the game and a leader of men. Is on the second line of betting and must be considered.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Last season: Ninth
Title odds: $11
Two years in and the Wanderers were champions of Asia. But the A-League performances have not been great.
The Wanderers were a disappointing ninth last season, after many touted their title chances, but things seem a little different in Sydney’s west this season.
It’s a new look squad that many think will go well under Tony Popovic.
Mitch Nichols is back to boss the midfield after his Japan forage, gun Dario Vidosic is expected to make a big impact and Federico Piovaccari is expected to lead the line, with the strike force depleted thanks to the departures of Kerem Bulut and Tomi Juric.
Piovaccari has Champions League experience with Steau Bucharest and played in the La Liga last season, so he is no slouch.
But, let’s forget about what’s going on in the middle or up forward.
It’s the defence that’s the real worry for the Wanderers.
They conceded 44 goals last season – that’s far too many.
The defence is new look and it will be under pressure to perform from day one.
A pair of Scotts, Jamieson and Neville will fire in from full back, with new goal keeper Andrew Redmayne hoping to turn things around for the Wanderers.
Suggested bet: Federico Piovaccari to win the golden boot – Didn’t score a ton of goals in the La Liga, but this is a step down in class that should provide more opportunity.
Last season: Fourth
Title odds: $12
The Phoenix were the feel good story of the A-League last season, rising up the ranks to nab a spot in the finals. But it was gone in a puff when they wet the bed against Melbourne City on their home pitch in New Zealand. They will be keen to atone for that, while still producing that lovely free flowing play they became known for last season. Socceroo Nathan Burns is gone, meaning they will need to find someone else to score some goals. Roly Bonevacia is a gun, but this is an even side that went well last season, but needs to find a way to keep the defence together in the pressure cooker situation of finals football.
Suggested bet: Wellington Phoenix to make the top six ($1.70 with CrownBet) – Will need to find goals, but should still be good enough to sneak into the finals.
Last season: Sixth
Title odds: $13
Socceroos penalty hero John Aloisi gets another crack at running an A-League side and he’ll be hoping it goes a little better than his last stint. He’ll be a cult figure in Brisbane, especially if he can produce early results. He’ll have to come up with a holding midfielder to replace gun Luke Brattan – but maybe he won’t have to worry. Almeria machine Corona – yep, like the beer – could be the man to fill some big shoes. He also has to hope 34 year old Thomas Broich’s body holds up.
The German superstar is as good as any one who has graced the A-League. He has twice won the Johnny Warren medal and is owner of some of the finest goals ever struck in the competition. He had his injury dramas last season and will need to stay healthy for the Roar to challenge.
Suggested bet: Brisbane Roar to win the wooden spoon ($8 with CrownBet.com.au) – Call us crazy, but this side has been gutted and Aloisi doesn’t inspire. High risk, high reward.
Last season: Seventh
Title odds: $13
The salary cap debacle of last season is still fresh in Glory supporters minds. They might have been a title chance at one point. But salary cap breaches uncovered by the A-League left their season in tatters as they were stripped of points. Perth has replaced one A grade goal keeper with another, the departure of Vukovic off set by the arrival of Ante Covic. Covic is 40, but is still expected to be among the best shot stoppers in the A-League. He’ll need to better the 35 goals conceded by the Glory in 2014-15 if they are to be any chance, because they’ve lost their two leading goal scorers in Jamie McLaren and Andy Keogh. New man Guyon Fernandez will be relied upon heavily to find the goals, or they can hope that young buck Chris Harold can finally deliver on his potential.
Suggested bet: Perth Glory to win the wooden spoon ($8 with CrownBet.com.au) – Like the Roar, it’s going to take some time for these guys to be back up the top.
Last season: 10th
Title odds: $21
The Jets finished on the bottom last season, so they’ll be hoping they can somehow lift themselves out of the mire. New boss Scott Miller is starting with the lowest of expectations. How about put a team on the park that looks professional? That’s something they struggled with last season at times, a 7-0 loss to Adelaide United the low point. They’ll rely heavily on overseas men Milos Trifunovic and Leonardo Santiago and will want to see the continued development of Mitch Cooper. Nigel Boogaard is a massive in to lead the leaky defence. With Nathan Tinkler out of the picture, the Jets are doing their best to get it right off the pitch. They will be hoping the results follow on the pitch.
Suggested bet: Can we pass? They’re $3.25 for the spoon with CrownBet.com.au, but it feels like they will be just good enough to avoid the dubious honour. They’re $2.75 to make the top six if you feel lucky.
Central Coast Mariners
Last season: Eighth
Title odds: $23
Poor old Central Coast. The catch cry under Tony Walmsley is promising a more exciting brand of football. But you need the cattle to do that. And the Mariners just don’t. They tried hard last season, but never really looked like challenging. It’s hard to see them rising up any higher than the bottom couple. The Mariners couldn’t even muster a goal a game last season and will be hoping new man Roy O’Donovan can change that. There won’t be many expectations on the Mariners this season and that’s probably a good thing.
Suggested bet: Same deal. How bout Roy O’Donovan to score the most goals at $11.
2015-16 A-League title market
Melbourne Victory ($3.85)
Sydney FC ($5)
Melbourne City FC ($6.50)
Adelaide United ($7.50)
Western Sydney Wanderers ($11)
Wellington Phoenix ($12)
Brisbane Roar ($13)
Perth Glory ($13)
Newcastle Jets ($21)
Central Coast Mariners ($23)
2015-16 A-League golden boot market
Besart Berisha ($3.50)
Shane Smeltz ($10)
Filip Holosko ($10)
Harry Novillo ($10)
Ray O’Donovan ($13)
Guyon Fernandez ($13)
Jamie Maclaren ($15)
Corey Gameiro ($17)
Fabio Ferreira ($17)
Blake Powell ($17)
Archie Thompson ($23)
Bruce Djite ($23)
Matt Simon ($23)
Roy Krishna ($23)
Jean Carlos Solorzano ($26)
Mark Bridge ($26)
Sergio Cirio ($26)
David Williams ($31)
Labinot Haliti ($31)
Robert Koren ($31)
Alex Brosque ($34)
Brendon Santalab ($34)
Kosta Barbarouses ($34)
Connor Pain ($41)
Devante Clut ($41)
Michael McGlinchey ($41)
Nik Fitzgerald ($41)
Chris Harold ($51)
Dimitri Petratos ($51)
Golgol Mebrahtu ($51)
Thomas Broich ($81)
2015-16 A-League Round One markets
Western Sydney Wanderers ($2.35), Draw ($3.40), Brisbane Roar ($2.90)
Adelaide United ($2.70), Draw ($3.40) Melbourne Victory ($2.50)
Central Coast Mariners ($2.65), Draw ($3.30), Perth Glory ($2.65)
Sydney FC ($2.30), Draw ($3.40), Melbourne City ($3)
Wellington Phoenix ($1.85), Draw ($3.60), Newcastle Jets ($4)
2015-16 A-League Johnny Warren Medal markets
Aaron Mooy (M City) ($5)
Marcelo Carrusca (Adl) ($6)
Milos Ninkovic (Syd) ($10)
Thomas Broich (Brs) ($11)
Roly Bonevacia (Well) ($11)
Fahid Ben Khalfallah (M Vic) ($12)
Gui Finkler (M Vic) ($13)
Filip Holosko (Syd) ($13)
Harry Novillo (M City) ($15)
Besart Berisha (M Vic) ($15)
Kosta Barbarouses (M Vic) ($15)
Milos Dimitrijevic (Syd) ($15)
Diego Castro (Per) ($15)
Nebojsa Marinkovic (Per) ($17)
Matthieu Del Pierre (M Vic) ($19)
Dario Vidosic (WSW) ($19)
Manchester United could hardly have endured a more disastrous start on their return to the UEFA Champions League this week.
Losing 2-1 to PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday evening was bad enough, but the big news out of Tuesday night’s group clash was the horrific injury sustained by Luke Shaw.
United’s star full-back will be out for at least six months after PSV midfielder Hector Moreno broke his leg with a desperate lunging tackle.
To add insult to injury, Moreno somehow avoided a red card and went on to net the equalising goal in first-half stoppage time.
The ugly incident got us thinking about where it ranks among the worst of the worst, so we’ve trawled through the archives and come up with our top 10 most horrific tackles and injuries in football.
Be warned: the footage for some of these shockers is not for the faint of heart.
Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park
Let us kick things off (pun fully intended) with one of the most infamous (and memorable) incidents in English Premier League history.
Eric Cantona ranks among Manchester United’s greatest ever players, having won four EPL titles, two FA Cups and three Charity Shields during his five years at Old Trafford.
But for all his achievements, the enigmatic Frenchman is best remembered for a moment of utter madness during a dirty day at Selhurst Park in 1995.
Cantona saw red for a petulant foul on Crystal Palace defender Richard Shaw, but worse was to come as he made his way towards the dressing room.
Having had quite enough of the abuse being hurled at him from the Palace fans, the one they called ‘King Eric’ launched over the fence with a bizarre kung-fu kick and a flurry of punches aimed at a particularly rowdy heckler.
The incident saw Cantona convicted of assault and banned from all football for eight months.
He was also axed as captain of the France national team, signalling an abrupt end to his international career.
Roy Keane takes aim at Alfe-Inge Haaland
‘Keano’ was never a subtle player – a Man United legend, to be sure, but a player who revelled in the rough and tumble of the Premier League.
But while some laud the Irishman as one of the last great hard-men of football, others remember him in a rather more sinister light.
His ‘challenge’ on Alfe-Inge Haaland remains the first point of reference for those in the latter camp.
Keane came into the Manchester derby of 2001 with a score to settle, having injured his own ACL while attempting to foul Haaland – then a Leeds United player – back in 1997.
With the game winding down, United captain launched at Haaland with a vicious studs-up tackle aimed directly at the Manchester City man’s right knee.
Keane was sent off and banned for three matches, but it didn’t quite end there.
He later said in an autobiography that the attack on Haaland was deliberate and premeditated – a revelation which resulted in a further five-match suspension and a £150,000 fine.
Kevin Muscat takes out Melbourne Heart’s Adrian Zahra
As a gritty defender with more balls than ability, Kevin Muscat got into his fair share of scrapes over the years.
The Australian was roundly despised by opposition players during his time in the United Kingdom with Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Rangers and Millwall.
But perhaps the most awful among his many indiscretions over the years came in the twilight of his career, as captain of Melbourne Victory in the newly-formed A-League.
With the scores level at 2-2 in a tense Melbourne derby, Muscat just about caused a riot with an outrageously mistimed tackle on Adrian Zahra.
The Victory skipper was promptly dismissed, having only just returned from suspension.
Yours truly saw this one in the flesh and can confidently say that it looked every bit as bad in real time.
Schumacher puts Battiston into a coma at the 1982 World Cup
The tantalising semifinal clash between France and West Germany at the 1982 FIFA World Cup is not remembered for the football.
Rather, it lives in infamy for one of the most shocking acts of violence ever witnessed in the beautiful game.
With the match tied at 1-1, Michel Platini sent a gorgeous through-ball over the top of the German back line and into the path of Patrick Battiston.
The French defender was one-on-one with Harald Schumacher, but the goalkeeper had no interest in playing the ball.
Battiston was knocked out cold, losing three of his teeth and later falling into a coma.
And yet, quite remarkably, there was no punishment for Schumacher, who proceeded to take his goal kick as though nothing had happened.
Indeed, not only did referee Charles Corver fail to issue a booking – he didn’t even award a free kick.
Siegmann cuts Ewald Lienen’s thigh to the bone
Former Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is well known for his somewhat agricultural approach to the game.
But one of his charges took that ethos to the extreme during Werder Bremen’s Bundesliga clash with Arminia Bielefeld in August 1981.
Having been urged play tough and rough, Bremen defender Norbert Siegmann launched into an awful tackle on Arminia’s Ewald Lienen.
The result was utterly appalling.
Siegmann’s studs ripped a 25 centimetre gash in Lienen’s thigh, leaving the bone exposed and a mass of horrified players, staff and spectators.
The victim left no doubt as to where he laid the blame, making a beeline for Rehhagel even while medics attempted to tend to his gaping wound.
Quite remarkably, Lienen resumed training just two and a half weeks (and 23 stitches) later.
Eduardo’s horrific leg break at Birmingham
This is one is still pretty fresh in the memory of Premier League followers.
Early on in Arsenal’s EPL clash at St. Andrews in February 2008, Eduardo da Silva turned on the ball in midfield and looked to pick a path through the Birmingham City defence.
His quick feet were too much for City defender Martin Taylor, who lashed out with a late challenge that earned him a red card.
But it soon became apparent that Taylor’s challenge was much more dangerous than initially suspected.
In fact, so distressing was the nature of Eduardo’s injury that Sky Sports refused to broadcast any close-up replays of the incident.
We therefore urge particular caution with the video below – it’s a real shocker, folks.
De Jong’s fly kick on Xabi Alonso at World Cup 2010
While Nigel de Jong is a hardworking midfielder of some repute, he’s been known to get a little overzealous in the challenge on occasion.
But the Dutchman outdid himself during the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, channeling the energies of Cantona and Schumacher to commit one of the all-time great football fouls.
Rather than attempting a header or conceding the aerial contest, de Jong instead plumped for Option C: a fly-kick to the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso.
The best part? In an ill-tempered game which featured no less than four red cards, this wasn’t one of them.
De Jong received only a yellow ticket for his insane recklessness, but Alonso would have the last laugh as Spain ran out 1-0 winners in extra time to claim their first World Cup title.
Pepe’s crazy kick on Javier Casquero
Real Madrid defender Pepe has a decidedly unflattering disciplinary record, to say the least.
But the hot-headed Portugal international was at his absolute worst during the Galacticos’ fixture with Getafe back in 2009.
With the match finely balanced at 2-2 in the dying minutes, Pepe brought down Javier Casquero to concede a blatant (and potentially match-winning) penalty.
But it’s what happened next that gets him on this list.
The Brazilian-born stopper kicked Casquero twice as he lay on the turf, before stamping on the Getafe midfielder repeatedly and punching Juan Angel Albin in the ensuing brawl.
He was sent off, unsurprisingly, and later received a 10-match ban.
Lee Bowyer stomps on Gerardo’s face
There are a few serial offenders on this list, but Lee Bowyer’s track record takes some beating.
This is a man who was famously sent off for brawling with Kieron Dyer – his own teammate – during his days at Newcastle United.
But for sheer malice, it’s hard to look past Bowyer’s actions during a UEFA Cup tie in 2003.
With Leeds United headed towards defeat, he tripped up Malaga’s Gerardo from behind to earn himself a typically unnecessary booking.
Most people would have left it there – but not Mr Bowyer, who instead opted to drive his studs into his stricken opponent’s face.
The referee and the pundits might have given him the benefit of the doubt, but the powers that be took a rather different view.
The one-time England midfielder was later handed a six-match ban by UEFA, who described the incident as “an act of serious assault”.
Pedro Mendes meets Ben Thatcher’s elbow
Is there an unluckier guy in football than Pedro Mendes?
The Portuguese midfielder’s time in England was littered with outrageous misfortune – bad tackles, freak injuries, wrongly denied goals (read Roy Carroll’s infamous goal-line blunder for Manchester United).
But his scariest moment came after a collision with Manchester City thug Ben Thatcher in 2006.
Chasing a clearance towards the sidelines, Mendes was sent sprawling into the fence as the City defender came through at full speed with a raised elbow.
Quite how Thatcher – a renowned cheap-shot artist – escaped a red card is beyond us, but he was later handed a lengthy ban by the FA.