Teen to captain Gold Coast Utd on debut

February 14, 2012
By Guy Hand

A teenager playing his first A-League match will captain Gold Coast United against Melbourne Heart on Friday night.

Australian under 17 striker Mitch Cooper will lead what will be one of the youngest ever A-League outfits at AAMI Park - at the personal request of billionaire Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer.

Cooper will stand in for suspended skipper Michael Thwaite.

Palmer said the 17-year-old's ascent to the top job was a symbolic gesture to show Gold Coast's commitment to young talent.

"Mitch is a great young player and deserves his chance," Palmer said in a statement.

"We want to promote our young players and give them opportunities.

"Mitch Cooper is the latest addition to a long list of players who have broken through to the senior side this season."

Another teenager, midfielder Jake Barker-Daish, is also set to make his A-League debut against the Heart.

Bottom side Gold Coast have relied on youth all season after deciding not to give players anything longer than one-year contracts going into this season.

Coach Miron Bleiberg said the role of Cooper, who will be 17 years and 152 days old on game-day, would be a purely symbolic one.

More experienced players, including defender Kristian Rees and striker Maceo Rigters, would be able to lend a hand.

"Giving him the armband symbolises some of the positives from this season in that young players have taken a step forward, and it's a nice gesture from Clive Palmer and the club to make him captain for the day," Bleiberg said.

"No one can deny that we are bringing good young players through here and whatever Mitch goes on to do in his career he will have a nice record and memory of his debut.

"Mitch is an intelligent guy on and off the field and of course, he will have a senior player like Kristian Rees nearby on the day, so there's no pressure on him."

As well as Thwaite's absence, experienced midfielder Jonas Salley will miss the match - believed to have signed a contract in China.

Salley was only on a short-term injury replacement deal at the Coast.