MATTHEW Bates admits it didn’t take him long to settle in at Hartlepool United –given that he already knew half the squad before he signed on the dotted line.
The 27-year-old was Colin Cooper’s first signing of the summer and it was quite a coup for Pools to secure the signature of the former Middlesbrough defender.
The Middlesbrough theme has continued at Victoria Park since Bates’ arrival, with ex-Boro defender Stuart Parnaby also signing, while Stephen Pears has recently been named assistant manager and goalkeeping coach at the Sky Bet League Two club.
Pears of course played in goal for both Boro and Pools during a distinguished career.
Add to that manager Cooper’s strong links to Boro and the likes of Jonathan Franks and Brad Walker – who have both spent time at the Championship club during their younger days – then Bates said he instantly felt at home.
“It has probably been the easiest settling in period at any club that I have been at,” explained Bates.
“Given that I knew the manager, while Stuart [Parnaby] has also signed and I was also here for some training last season.
“I know a lot of the other lads in the squad as well and have played against Marlon Harewood in the past, so know him quite well.
“It has been very easy settling in and they are a great bunch of lads.
“We have all had a good couple of months off but after a while you are just itching to be back in training, back amongst the craic and working hard.
“Everybody knows that pre-season is hard work but you feel good after doing it.”
That pre-season work will be continuing this week with Pools’ trip to La Cala Resort, in Southern Spain, for an intense training programme.
As well as working hard, Bates is also looking forward to getting to know those team mates he doesn’t know quite so well over the next few days.
Pools flew out to Spain on Monday morning and will be returning to the North East this weekend.
“This week is going to be really good to get all the lads together,” added Bates. “There are a couple of new faces in the squad and the most important thing is building up everyone’s fitness really.
“There will be no distractions and we will be training twice, sometimes three times a day.
“The facilities here in Spain are first class and the manager has always trained at the highest level and that is what he is trying to bring to this club.
“The little things like that do matter and it shows the lads where he wants to take the club.”
Bates enjoyed a short spell training with Pools at the start of last season following his release from Bristol City but at the time Cooper was unable to make an offer for the defender and he joined League One side Bradford City.
However, Cooper kept tabs on the former England Youth international and has been in negotiations to bring him back to the region since his Bantams release at the end of last term.
Stockton-born Bates came through the ranks at Middlesbrough and was part of their FA Youth Cup winning side of 2003-04 before making his first team debut just days before his 18th birthday in December 2004.
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