For the frozen but delirious 10,336 fans at Robina’s Skilled Park home last night, the fairy-tale of a big debut A-League season starting in August for Gold Coast United, is looking more and more likely.
The glamour club has just done what no other A-League club have managed before them in the past — beat a Premier League club (2-1) in what was also a battle of the billionaires. United also did it with some panache in coming from a goal down and should have scored more to send Fulham off to Melbourne with a kangaroo tail between their legs.
After finishing seventh in the world’s wealthiest league last season and earning a UEFA Europa League Cup spot next season; it might have only been Fulham’s first outing in a three-leg Australian pre-season tour; but even The Sun newspaper back in London wasn’t letting them off the hook.
“Fulham lost their very own Ashes battle as they crashed and burned against Aussie new-boys Gold Coast United”.
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Billionaire owner Clive Palmer might claim this triumph was nothing less than he what he expected from his brand new A-League love-child, given he’s been stirring the league pot with a form of boastful bravado never seen before. He was at his hyper best when fresh from signing Socceroo midfielder Jason Cullina as his $1.2 million a season marquee player — he made the outlandish claim he now expected United to go through its debut season undefeated. For a man blessed with almost everything he could want other than having his own preferred political party running the state; Queensland’s richest man is enjoying a very good run over the last week.
The mining mogul on July 3 announced another huge addition to his resources portfolio with the acquisition of BHP Billiton’s Yabulu nickel refinery for an undisclosed sum. He’s made no secret that ideally he’s hoping he can now also acquire from the same company it’s controversially mothballed $2.8 billion Ravensthorpe mining operation in Western Australia.
After last night historic win, the rambunctious businessman who has long since left no one in any doubt that he’s treating his United ownership as anything but an expensive new toy with his very hands-on involvement, he was happy to put the defeat of the London club owned by another famously cantankerous 76 year-old billionaire and Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, into humble perspective.
“Tonight we’ve made history for Australian soccer and this is the first time that any sort of national club team be it A-League or previous National League club has beaten a Premier League team in England.”
His equally happy manager Miron Bleiberg mindful of his boss’s portfolio of interests also gave his view of what the win meant for his chairman. “I know that Clive is almost as happy as if he had bought BHP or Rio Tinto.”
The excitable Palmer actually saved a floundering Gold Coast A-League license bid in June 2008, when a bunch of Gold Coast property developers were finding ready cash a little hard to come by in their attempts to land the franchise. Mindful of now being one of three national football club franchises on the Glitter Strip, Palmer would like to see the A-League lift its sights in its future ambitions. He wants some relaxation on current rules governing the salary cap, so his club and others can afford to recruit additional high calibre players from overseas.
After last night’s shock loss though, Mohamed Al Fayed who earlier this year pleaded for the Premier League to introduce a salary cap, will feel even more vindicated that he’s paying out too much money to stay afloat in the Premier League, as he told his club’s website:
Take my crusade against sky-high players’ wages. Our expenses bill rose by 17 per cent last year. How can it be right for top players to be earning £15m to £20m a year?
It’s crazy. These wages need to be capped.
After last night being taken to the cleaners by the comparative shoestring A-League salary cap that controls how much Palmer can spend, Al Fayed might like a few pointers on bargain buy player recruitment.