CON Constantine looked and sounded like a man who had played his last ace.
The self-made multimillionaire insisted yesterday that he would not walk away from the Newcastle Jets, the club in which he says he has invested $15 million over the past decade.
But unless Football Federation Australia (FFA) is willing to advance him a significant amount of cash, in the hope that the Jets can survive until the end of the season and then take stock, his options appear to be limited.
Constantine needs help urgently.
Yet if FFA is not forthcoming, his last resort, approaching the NSW government for help, shapes as a long and convoluted process.
It would be fair to say the government has enough crises on its hands without giving a second thought to rescuing the Jets from possible oblivion.
Constantine has two main gripes with the government.
First and foremost, he has stated many times that he believes it is unfair the Jets have to rent EnergyAustralia Stadium from the Newcastle Knights, who are the major tenants and control match-day income.
And to be fair, where else in Australia does one sporting team rent a taxpayer-owned stadium from another sporting team?
"This is a piece of real estate that belongs to the people of NSW," Constantine said yesterday.
"It's a NSW government-owned stadium . . . [but] if I get 20,000 people here today, or 5000, I don't stand to make one dollar out of the alcohol consumption, or the catering or the naming rights.
"We don't get a cent. Give us a break."
Protracted arbitration talks between the Knights and the state government could provide relief for Constantine's frustration.
It is understood that when a settlement is reached finally, the Knights will return control of the stadium to the government.
But that may be too little too late for the Jets.
The other source of frustration for Constantine is that the Knights are believed to have been paid an undisclosed amount of compensation by way of arbitration for having to play host to matches without the western grandstand for the past two seasons.
The Jets argue they are entitled to a similar discount.
Knights officials have indicated they are willing to discuss such a prospect but say the Jets will have to provide documentary evidence of how the stadium development has caused them financial hardship.
The Jets have not bothered to state their case, yet Constantine continues to insist his club has been hard done by.
"We thought we would have had an answer about the arbitration after five months," he said.
"We kept getting told whatever the Knights get, we would get likewise.
"But when is that going to happen?
"When we collapse? When we are gone? What are we waiting for?"
Constantine maintained he had no intention of walking away from the Newcastle Jets.
"No, no, no," he said.
"I'm never disappointed about what it's cost me.
"I never complain on that basis. All I'm saying is let's find a solution.
"Let's work together - FFA, state government and the Jets - and get this above the line and move forward."
Football Federation Australia officials, who have spent the past week scrutinising Newcastle's finances, would appear to have three options today.
First, they can advance some funding to the Jets so they can continue to operate.
Second, the federation officials could stage a complete takeover under the premise that Constantine has breached his licence by failing to pay players and staff.
The final, unthinkable, alternative would be to allow the 2007-08 champions to fold.
"If we lose it once more out of Newcastle, you can forget about it coming back," Constantine said.
Sadly, that sounded like a man with no more aces up his sleeve.