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Feb 15, 2012

Gold Coast suspend A-League coach

What began as a publicity stunt could end in tears for A-League cellar dwellers Gold Coast United on Friday night.

On an extraordinary day for the former glamour club, billionaire owner Clive Palmer suspended coach Miron Bleiberg for one match over comments regarding teenager Mitch Cooper's appointment as skipper.

Palmer ensured headlines for the dead-last United by sensationally handpicking 17-year-old Cooper as stand-in captain for Friday night's clash with Melbourne Heart - on A-League debut.

But what happened next truly surprised.

Palmer left a young United side even more vulnerable against the Heart when he dumped the coach because he was unhappy with Bleiberg's public take on Cooper's bizarre promotion.

United CEO Clive Mensink said the club took the decision to appoint Cooper seriously and Palmer was unhappy with Bleiberg describing it at a press conference as "ceremonial".

Adding more pressure on Cooper, Palmer not only backed the teenager as United skipper but claimed he "would one day captain the Socceroos".

"So far, Mitch Cooper has had an outstanding football career having represented Australia in the 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico where he was named as players' player of the match against Brazil," Palmer said.

Palmer confirmed assistant Mike Mulvey would hold the reins until Bleiberg's return for next Wednesday night's clash with Central Coast at Skilled Park.

Palmer backed his young side to "do well" against Heart considering the majority of players are from the club's National Youth League side that has won the past two championships.

But the team sheet indicated otherwise.

Up to 14 regulars are unavailable ensuring only three United players will be older than 22 on Friday night - including the man expected to stand in for suspended skipper Michael Thwaite, Kristian Rees.

And six are still teenagers.

The side has been further depleted by the withdrawal of Dutch import Maceo Rigters who limped away from training on Thursday with an ankle complaint.

Mensink said the likes of Rees had supported Palmer's controversial decision to appoint Cooper.

"The senior players like Kristian supported the decision and why it was made," Mensink told AAP.

"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 Bleiberg's surprise suspension on Thursday morning before Mulvey ran United's training session.

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.

"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!

"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."

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