Door left open for A-League's Gold Coast
The door was left ajar - slightly - for Gold Coast United to play on next season after A-League boss Lyall Gorman walked away from club crisis talks clearly impressed by their young charges.
Prospects looked bleak for United after Football Federation Australia (FFA) boss Ben Buckley refused to guarantee the side's future beyond March 25 following maverick owner Clive Palmer being stripped of the A-League licence.
But Gorman sounded like a man who would fight for their future following an emotional three-day stint thrashing out a deal with United youngsters that ensured they would play the last four games of the season - starting with Sunday's clash at Wellington.
Gorman appeared inspired by the way United's youthful ranks had handled themselves during talks that also included Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) chief Brendan Schwab in the dark days that followed Palmer's high-profile dumping.
"It's too early to speculate," Gorman said of the Gold Coast's future.
"But be assured we will engage key stakeholders across the board and, in the next few weeks, we will work with them to better understand what the opportunities are moving forward.
"I have had the pleasure to work with them over the last three days with the PFA and they are a tremendous group of young boys.
"They are professional to the hilt. All they want to do is play football."
The FFA have guaranteed United can finish the season after taking control following Palmer's application for an injunction against the termination of his A-League licence was dismissed on Friday night in the Supreme Court in Brisbane.
Then there was the tricky matter of incumbent United coach Mike Mulvey, who had not signed a FFA contract due to his loyalty to Palmer.
Initially, the FFA handed Matildas' coach Tom Sermanni the United reins for the rest of the season but, on Saturday, confirmed Mulvey would be in charge, reportedly avoiding a player revolt.
Mulvey took over the reins after Palmer sacked coach Miron Bleiberg but groomed the majority of the players in the side in his capacity as the National Youth League mentor.
Gorman said Sermanni would provide an "ongoing support role" for Mulvey.
United have resembled an under-23 side due to a horror injury list but amazingly flourished under Mulvey's reign including a 3-3 draw with ladder leaders Central Coast.
It prompted Gorman to issue a sobering warning.
"Any of these last four games, believe me, won't be throw away games," he said.
"There is a drive to finish with the momentum they have built over in the last two or three weeks under Mike."
Mulvey said his only loyalty would be to the players in the final four games.
"It has been a tumultuous time, but my focus has always been on the players," he said.
"They approached me and said they would love for me to continue as coach.
"The message I have delivered (since Bleiberg's axing) is that we must stick together.
"If I was to abandon them at this point in time, it would be the wrong message to give."