Matthew Bates is confident at Hartlepool United’s central defensive unit – whoever is paired together.
Bates looks set to link up with new signing Toto Nsalia, not that he is taking anything for granted, given the towering presence of Rob Jones in the squad.
It looks like the players the gaffer has brought in are very goodMATTHEW BATES
Nsalia looks a shrewd signing from Grimsby Town with the retention of Jones, all 6ft 7in of him, appears to be just as smart a piece of business by Craig Hignett.
It would be a shock should Bates not start the season given his outstanding form last term.
And the ex-Middlesbrough star has praised his fellow centre-halves.
“Toto is a big, strong lad who I have heard great reports about,” said Bates.
“He can also play as well. That is what the gaffer wants.
“Whoever plays centre half I am looking forward to playing alongside them – if selected.
“Rob is still fit as a fiddle, he has nothing on him!
“He came in last year and helped steady the ship. That first game he played was outstanding and he is great to have around the building.
“His experience is vast and he also makes me feel young – which I like!
“It’s not just the football ability but the experience around the place, coaching our Under-14s will be good for him and them too.”
Bates is back on the training ground at Maiden Castle following experience of foreign fields.
The 29-year-old was in France last month for the European Championships, a trip he enjoyed and one he reported on the club website in his Matthew Bates: Euro 2016 Blog.
Bates drove there with pals and enjoyed his time.
“The Euros was a good experience,” he said. “We did it a little bit differently, 12 of us got two camper vans so there was plenty of driving.
“I wouldn’t have changed it, it was once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“We went to the first England game against Russia in Marseille and then we tried to get tickets for the Wales game, but they were too expensive so we just ended up in the fan zone.
“Everyone asked about the trouble, but we didn’t see any.
“I’m not sure whether it was because we were lucky, it was an amicable experience.”
After the fun in France comes the hard work here, but Bates said he is optimistic at the prospects.
“Excitement is the word,” he said.
“It looks like the players the gaffer has brought in are very good.
“Time will tell and we will get to know them as individuals and players and how they will fit into the squad.
“Every pre-season you come back excited and hopefully that will convert into success this season.”