Former Middlesbrough star Matthew Bates looking forward to enjoying football at Hartlepool United

NEW BOY Matthew Bates
NEW BOY Matthew Bates

MATTHEW Bates is looking forward to enjoying his football again.

Colin Cooper’s first signing of the summer met up with his new team-mates today when Hartlepool United started pre-season training.

The former Middlesbrough defender admits his time at Bradford City did not quite go to plan – even though the Bantams had a good season, finishing in the top half of League One.

There was speculation Bates would join Pools last season after training with the League Two squad for a spell at Maiden Castle.

The 28-year-old ended up signing for Bradford and made 22 appearances, but is “excited” the move to Pools has now happened.

“I was here briefly last year and enjoyed it,” Bates told SportMail. “We spoke about it [signing] but it didn’t happen.

“Last season I joined Bradford City and I wasn’t really happy with how that went.

“So when the gaffer here rang me and we met up, we went quickly from an initial conversation to me signing!

“I know him well from our Middlesbrough days and I know what he wants from you as a player. I will enjoy playing for Hartlepool.

“At Bradford I was out of position for a lot of the season.

“Centre-half is my best role and I played there until Christmas. But I got played at left-back.

“I love centre-half and don’t mind centre-midfield but I did not feel right there.

“It’s great to be here now at Hartlepool United.

“I know quite a few of the lads anyway and I enjoyed training here last season and kept looking out for the results.

“Me and the gaffer had a great talk last week and it’s obvious the club is going in the right direction.

“I would not have signed here if the ambition wasn’t there.”

Given his previous temporary stay at Pools, Maiden Castle is very familiar to the Stockton lad.

“You could not get a better training ground in League Two,” said Bates. “The facilities here are incredible.

“The pitches are first-class so too are the astroturf ground and gym.

“It’s a great set-up for Hartlepool to have.

“I can’t wait to get started.

“As with all footballers I’ve enjoyed my break but I’m looking forward to training with the lads and getting match fit.”

Bates has suffered a catalogue of injury problems over the years but has had no issues over the last two seasons.

“Touch wood, everything has been fine,” he added.