Hartlepool United face fight to keep hold of star striker Niko Muir
Matthew Bates believes Hartlepool United have a tough job on their hands to hang on to in-form striker Niko Muir.
The former Hendon man has lit up the Super 6 Stadium since arriving on a free transfer this summer from the Isthmian League.
And despite not notching his third of the campaign over the Bank Holiday weekend, including in yesterday’s 1-0 win over Chesterfield, the forward has shown his class with his movement, touch, ability to find space and bring others into the game.
Bates knows if the player carries on like this, he will not be at Pools for very long.
“Niko has been a revelation really,” said Bates.
“It is amazing to see where he has come, and watching how good he has been.
“Physically having to withstand the demands of the division, the training – it hasn’t been a problem for him.
“If he keeps this up he will not be here long. That is the message we have put across to him.
“The thing about this is, that if he is going higher we are going higher.
“I have been hugely impressed with him.
The transition from the seventh tier to the fifth has been seamless for Muir – he looks like a player who could score at any level.
And it’s easy to see why a club like Queens Park Rangers took a punt on the 25-year-old, who had an ultimately fruitless trial in West London at the back end of last season.
What comes as a shock to Bates is that no team in the Football League offered the non-league frontman terms. In fact, he’s even more astounded no teams at this level – which is very south east heavy – had Muir on their radar.
“It does surprise me,” he said about teams not signing Muir up.
“Me and Ged were talking the other day and it’s not even a case of the Football League.
“When you see all of the southern teams at this level who we play against – why have they not taken a chance on a player like that? I have no idea – they’d have to answer that themselves.
“We need to keep him where he is at – he is a nice boy, a real level-headed boy and I have no doubt he will get ahead of himself. He knows it is a long way to go.
“But if he carries on like this he has got a big future.”
Bates was himself a defender of some repute, playing at the highest level with Middlesbrough alongside the likes of now England manager Gareth Southgate.
Despite his Premier League and Football League experience, Bates says he would not fancy playing against Muir and strike partner Luke James.
“Those two would be a nightmare,” said Bates.
“They both offer something different but can do the same jobs as well.
“Niko can go in behind and run the channels and we all know Luke can do that, too.
“We asked Niko to drop into the pockets and drag the centre-halves around. He did that.”
On the match itself, Bates was pleased with his side’s performance, against arguably their toughest opponents to date.
“I was pleased,” he said.
“We showed our skill going forward first-half and then second-half defended really well against their threat.
“I’m thoroughly pleased with the lads and they are pleased too.
“We showed a great determination to see us through today.
“First-half I was pleased with the chances created and we should be scoring more goals than we are.
“The strikers were immense and the midfielders behind them too. They just need a little confidence boost themselves and will scored plenty.”