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Opinion: A eulogy for Gold Coast United - gone, but not easily forgotten

Dejan Kalinic recalls the good, bad and ugly times of Gold Coast United's short but eventful three-season stint in the A-League

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By Dejan Kalinic

Thanks for the memories, Gold Coast United. It was fun while it lasted.

The curtain was officially drawn on the Glitter Strip club on Thursday after three A-League seasons, ending a tumultuous recent relationship between it and Football Federation Australia.

Despite the best efforts of a consortium that attempted to save the club, Frank Lowy and Ben Buckley wanted Gold Coast gone, and they got their way.

Gold Coast United, however, had their moments.

Remember when maverick owner Clive Palmer declared his new team would go undefeated in their inaugural campaign?

"We have a unique opportunity to remain undefeated in winning the A-League and that's what our new goal is now."
- Clive Palmer, January 2009.

It was the glamour club - private jets and luxury boats were used for players, a team that included then-Australia international Jason Culina and star striker Shane Smeltz.

They won their first three games - including a victory over rivals Brisbane Roar - and went on to finish third in the 2009-10 season.

But they lost their first final against the Ben Kennedy-inspired Newcastle Jets 6-5 on penalties after wasting several chances in the 120 minutes.

Remember how far and wide Kristian Rees' penalty to win the shootout went, and Kennedy's memorable one-handed save from Zenon Caravella?

Remember the Smeltz transfer saga that followed?

Smeltz, the Golden Boot winner, left for China, then returned, then departed for Turkey.

The New Zealand international came back again, in time to have an impact towards the end of the 2010-11 A-League season.

Unlike the campaign prior, Gold Coast won their first final as Dino Djulbic's stoppage-time header gave them a 1-0 win over the Melbourne Victory.

Led by star duo Shane Smeltz and Jason Culina, United reached the finals in their debut campaign.

Remember the final that followed, that pulsating 3-2 win against Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium?

Remember the 35-yard Smeltz screamer that beat Eugene Galekovic, and the striker's cheeky penalty to win them the game on 79 minutes?

But they fell in the preliminary final, when Adam Kwasnik's well-placed finish was enough for the Central Coast Mariners.

Remember when more than 20,000 free tickets were snapped up for Gold Coast's clash against the Mariners in December 2010, only for the encounter to finish early because of an unplayable pitch?

It was hardly the only stadium issue the club had, with Palmer criticised for electing to close parts of Skilled Park for several matches to save money.  Despite the proud efforts of the Beach, it led to a ghost-like atmosphere for many of United's home games.

Still, Gold Coast were unearthing talented youngsters in the National Youth League, winning back-to-back titles.

Some came to the fore during this season, the likes of James Brown, Ben Halloran, Chris Harold, Jake Barker-Daish and Mitch Cooper.

Culina departed to Newcastle, allowing the youngsters to shine.

But the raw talent finished bottom of the table, at times unlucky despite providing plenty of entertainment throughout the campaign.

Defender Zac Anderson hugs members of the United faithful, after what was to prove the final match for the club in the A-League

Palmer's criticism of the club and the FFA - as well as the low crowds - meant Gold Coast were always destined to finish up at the end of the season.

Remember Gold Coast's last-ever win, a 3-0 victory over a finals-bound Perth Glory on March 18?

Thanks for the memories - even if they were not always so great.

Gold Coast United, you will be missed.

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