Matthew Bates keen to let the kids to the running, while he does the talking at Hartlepool
Matthew Bates is happy for Hartlepool United's kids to do the running, while he does the talking.
The experienced centre-back’s transition back into Pools XI has been absolutely seamless in recent weeks.
And as a result it comes as no shock at all that Craig Hignett’s men have managed to keep three clean sheets in their last four, all of which Bates has started.
But the former Middlesbrough man admits that he is not the most mobile of defenders these days.
Instead he prefers to let Pools’ young bucks do the hard yards, while he marshal things from the back.
“It is good playing with the younger lads – they do all the running and all I do is talk,” the ex-England youth international joked.
“I enjoy it. I think we have a good mix.
“Talking – you are either born with it or you are not. You can’t teach it.
“The younger footballer now does not speak as much as the likes of me at 29, or Rob (Jones) who is even older.
“As you know I am coaching the Under-16s – they don’t even speak in the changing rooms never mind on the pitch.
“Maybe that’s the way the game is going.”
Bates was the elder statesman, in terms of miles on the clock, at least, in the Pools backline at the weekend, flanked by Scott Harrison, 23, and Toto Nsiala, 24. Out wide Lewis Hawkins, 23, and James Martin, 18, completed what was a rather youthful Pools defence.
While Bates admits Pools found it tough adapting to the new formation – 3-5-2 – he says as Tuesday’s victory over Accrington unfolded, he believes the system worked perfectly.
And while manager Hignett is considering whether to shelve the three at the back experiment, Bates hopes he sticks with it.
“It was a good result but a mixed performance. We took some getting used to the formation but I think as the game went on we deserved the three points,” he said.
“The system felt good.
“The manager has touched on the formation in the season and a half he has been here.
“He likes the formation, you can tell that. He wants to use it.
“We didn’t have much time to work on it in the week, due to the Accrington game. As a result it was a bit of a risk.
“It was one worth taking, though.
“It is a formation that you get better at playing the more you work at it.
“It is something I have played a lot – I like it.
“You have the chance to get out of the back four more, it enables us to get two strikers on the pitch as well which is a bonus.
“You see a lot of the top teams playing this 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, whatever you might want to call it.”
Momentum is key in League Two, especially with the division so tight.
And having picked themselves up from last gasp defeat at Doncaster with a win in midweek, Bates is determined not to let things slip again this weekend at Adams Park.
He said: “We have said we must go on a run and then we have let it stutter again.
“This is the time of year you kind of want to go on a run.
“I have said it before and I will say it again but we are right in there.
“We are only four points off the play-offs, but four off the bottom two.
“That shows how tight the league is.
“It highlights what a good run can do for you. It also highlights what a bad one can do, too.”
Heading into the busy festive period and beyond, Bates thinks that results over the next few weeks have the power to either make or break Pools’ campaign.
“It is a busy period in December and early January so this could be a tipping point this season,” said Bates.
“It is critical. At the end of January you could be looking up or over your shoulder.
“At this time in the season it could all go either way. This period goes a long way to deciding what kind of season you have.
“There is nothing between the top seven and the bottom two. We want to look up not down.”