Opinion: Matthew Bates is the RIGHT call by Pools - now get behind your man!
Matthew Bates was the only man for Hartlepool United.
No matter what people think of the man, the player, the coach - the caretaker has earned a fair crack a the job on a full-time basis.
Thirteen games, five wins and four draws.
That is some return given the circumstances at Pools.
For a bit of context Pools won just five games between October 7, 2017, and February 21, prior to the sacking of Craig Harrison.
This with a weaker group of players, too, given that Harrison did not lose key men Nicky Deverdics, Jonathan Franks et al, until the January window.
Football is a results business. And Bates produced the goods.
After Harrison was shown the exit door, being brutally honest - I was not sure this group had another win in them this season. The club was in dire straits, the side was in freefall.
But, despite having little to no managerial, or even coaching experience having had a minor role with the under-23s and on set-piece duty under Harrison, Bates stood up and was counted when the club needed him most.
He has been accused by many fans of not doing that as a player, but judged purely as a caretaker Bates has far exceeded anyone’s expectations.
The transformation was so stark that it led to a complete ripping up of the playbook by the club’s hierarchy.
They came to Victoria Park with their own ideas and had sounded out candidates for the post.
One wrong move and Bates would surely be out on his backside, with a thanks but no thanks for his efforts.
But, at every turn, the 31-year-old proved his doubters wrong.
He made a number of inspired decisions in the process.
The first was to bring both Ross Turnbull and Ged McNamee, who could well also be rewarded with paid contracts next season.
The confidence that flooded back to the Pools ranks after their arrival has been well-documented, but cannot be overlooked.
The second was in trusting the youth.
Josh Hawkes’ arrival on the first-team scene was stalled by Harrison, but embraced by Bates. The youngster, or Pools, have barely taken a backward step since.
Moving forward, the manager must to now is not rest on his laurels.
He played with a number of these players, but there can be no old pals act.
Changes have come at the top, they must come from the bottom up also.
Even though this will be one of Bates’ first decisions in the job, it could turn out to be one of his most crucial.
It has the power to define his reign, especially in the fans’ eyes.
The facts are simple - too many changes is impossible. Certain players are contracted, some have contract extension offers weighted in their favour, but too much continuity could lead to continued struggles.
Bates is a man who knows his football, values his players and has the right men around him.
He must now show he has strength and is ruthless - traits possessed by every one of those who make it big in the managerial game.
Whatever his call, Poolies need to get behind him. And I am sure they will.
He might not have been everyone’s No 1 choice for the job, but the alternatives were hardly glittering.
Pools are not the pull they used to be, and that’s no slight on the size or stature of the club. It is simply a reference to the poor hand they have to play at present.
That will improve under the right man. And for Bates, if he thought things were tough to this point, the real hard work starts now.
He won the battle, the war is still to be won.