Gold Coast United suspend coach
A publicity stunt has gone horribly wrong for Gold Coast United after the A-League cellar dwellers suspended their coach Miron Bleiberg indefinitely over comments regarding teenager Mitch Cooper's appointment as skipper.
United's billionaire owner Clive Palmer made the unusual move to handpick 17-year-old Cooper as stand-in captain for Friday night's clash with Melbourne Heart - on A-League debut. But what followed truly surprised.
Bleiberg has been suspended "until further notice" after upsetting Palmer with his take on Cooper's meteoric rise.
United CEO Clive Mensink said the club took the decision to appoint Cooper "seriously" and were unhappy with Bleiberg describing it as "ceremonial".
"We felt his comments belittled the appointment of Mitch Cooper," Mensink told AAP.
He would not speculate on when or if Bleiberg would return to the club.
"I am not going to go into that. We will have discussions with him in the coming days and go from there," he said.
Assistant Mike Mulvey will take over from Bleiberg.
Mensink insisted Bleiberg had been consulted and was happy with the decision to overlook the likes of veteran Kristian Rees and name debutant Cooper as stand-in skipper for the suspended Michael Thwaite.
"Yes, he was part of the process," he said. "And the senior players like Kristian supported the decision and why it was made.
"I think we have to put it into perspective, given the injuries and suspensions we have at the moment.
"We feel it was only natural that we bring in one of our younger guys (as captain). And looking forward, it is good to give them this experience and blood them."
Players were told of the surprise news (Bleiberg suspension) on Thursday morning before Mulvey ran United's training session.
Mulvey is also the National Youth League (NYL) club's mentor - a factor Mensink believed would ensure a smooth transition.
Up to 14 United regulars are sidelined, ensuring the A-League side looks more like a NYL outfit.
"Given where the club is with injuries, we have about 80 per cent of the squad used to him anyway so, from a familiarity point of view, that's good," Mensink said.
At 17 years, 152 days on game day, Cooper will become the youngest captain of an elite Australian sporting club.
United's former strength and conditioning coach Adrian Cois slammed Palmer's decision.
"Who is the worst coach in the A-League? Clive Palmer," he tweeted.
"He hasn't let Miron run the team - put your money in and let the pros do their jobs!
"Saving grace is that Mike can coach... Only problem is it seems Clive has put the team out - if I had a membership I'd ask for a refund!
"Clive Palmer has lost his marbles - if he had any in the first place.
"Mitch Cooper as Captain? Good kid but please."