Matthew Bates faces the press. Picture by FRANK REID
Matthew Bates faces the press. Picture by FRANK REID

A short-term engagement or in it for the long haul?

That could be a question for Matthew Bates and Hartlepool United over the coming days, weeks and months.

The 30-year-old admits he has always had a move into coaching in the back of his mind, not that he ever envisaged anything like this.

Bates is quick to point out, barely before a question is even asked at his press conference, that he is only the front man.

The man who has played with distinction in every division in England is merely the head of an escape committee comprising club captain Billy Paynter, conditioning coach Stuart Parnaby and Ian Gallagher, the club’s head physio, better known as Buster.

This quartet has not one game in management between them, but each has a rapport with the Pools squad and it’s that connection that chairman Gary Coxall hopes can inspire a last-ditch revival.

Bates is only two days into the ‘job’ but the way he strolled through his first press conference with the confidence and assurance he regularly showed in the red shirt of his beloved Middlesbrough suggests he may be in it for longer than two games.

So has this come at a good time in his career?

“I’ll tell you in two weeks,” he smiled from behind the desk in the media suite at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

“I’ve always wanted to go into coaching.

“I’ve done a bit – I’ve been out injured for long periods of my career.

“And when I watch games, I don’t really watch the players, I’m watching the tactics.

“Has this come at a good time for me? I don’t know.

“I am enjoying it but I’m just taking it day by day, we’ll see how it goes.

“All I’m doing at the moment is trying to keep this club in the Football League.

“If I can do that, will it be the biggest achievement of my life? Yes, it probably will be.”

Coxall, who has admitted getting his last appointment wrong in Dave Jones, will hope this temporary measure, this escape committee, will be a hunch he has got spectacularly right.

We shall see over the next 180 minutes of football.

That Bates is the head honcho is not some lucky dip – he has been hand-picked.

He’s an intelligent fella with a good football brain – in fact had he not been short of two knees then he’d be earning colossal amounts of money in a division or three higher than he is.

When pressed if he would want to become a manager he did not dismiss the notion, but affirmed the fact that his only focus was keeping his employers in the Football League.

“Maybe in the future,” he said.

“I’m not thinking about it, I have a playing contract here.

“I got a call on Monday from the chairman asking me to take charge for two games – I think his thinking is that ‘he’s been in the dressing room and he might get a reaction from them.’

“That’s what me and the lads are aiming to do, but that’s all that has been said.”

Bates has already done his UEFA B-licence and plans to start his A-licence in the summer, but, as he says, all that matters at the moment is Saturday’s six-pointer at Cheltenham and the final day of the season fixture against title favourites, Doncaster Rovers,

“It’s two games and I’ll be giving my all,” he said.

So too will his colleagues, club captain Paynter, former UEFA Cup finalist Parnaby, and Gallagher, the passionate Poolie, who bleeds blue and white.

“They all bring different things to the table,” said Bates.

“Stuey and Billy have played at a high level.

“And there’s no-one more passionate about Hartlepool than Buster and the lads know that and love him for it.

“We’ll all debate things and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of late nights this week, but we’ll be fine.”