Matthew Bates discusses squad options and the impact of Peter Kioso at Pools
Very few eyebrows were raised when Hartlepool United completed their seventh signing of the summer '“ a low-profile addition of an 18-year-old full-back from the lower reaches of English football.
Thirteen days on and it’s easy to see why Matthew Bates was excited at managing to land the signature of Southern League Premier Division defender Peter Kioso.
Those who know, know. And if you’ve been witness to the ex-Dunstable and MK Dons man’s performances in Pools’ last three friendly outings you’ll be as excited as Bates.
“Peter has done great,” said the manager after the 4-0 win a Shildon in midweek.
“He has been a great find for us.
“He can play left, right or centre-half. He gives us great options.
“He played men’s football last season and you can tell. He is confident and playing with men brings that side out in you.”
While Kioso has been claiming rave reviews down one side, Pools’ other options in the position have not done too badly either.
Fellow new boy Mark Kitching is another who has impressed, so too has Kenton Richardson, who has just turned 19.
“I have always liked Kenton,” said Bates.
“He has everything in his locker to go higher than this level.
“He has all the attributes – he’s quick, strong, tall, has a great attitude, is always doing extras in training, is the first in and last out.
“We really like him here. He is a really talented player.”
Talking about so many options in positions is a novelty, given Hartlepool’s very recent struggles.
At the back end of last season, the manager was struggling to patch up a starting XI for the weekend, never mind struggling to fit everyone on the bench.
“We have got real competition in the squad now,” said the manager
“The lads are giving me a headache with the pre-season games we have got coming up and then the first day of the season.
“But I would rather have that than what we had at the end of last season where we were just trying to field an XI.
“The players know that if they train well and play well then they will be in the team. It’s simple. There are no ifs, buts or maybes about it.
“Players have to prove to me they are worth a place.”
Bates continued: “Pre-season has absolutely flown by. Maybe that’s because I am not a player – it used to drag for me.
“The excitement is building. We still have a lot of things we need to work on moving forward but we are getting there.”
A disciplined, stoic, rearguard action, carefully choreographed and implemented against Sunderland was followed by a free-flowing, potent display at Shildon.
Both performances, in their own way, have been perfect for Pools ahead of the new National League season.
“It has not been by design,” he said of recent fixtures.
“We have pointers that we have to hit in possession and out of possession for every position, whether that be Louis Laing or Andrew Davies. People have to work as hard as each other, in the team or out of it. We have recruited players who can do that.”