Players don’t come much more experienced than Matthew Bates.
Not in the Hartlepool United squad and Bates, as boss Ronnie Moore has said, is enjoying a “new lease of life” with Pools.
Adam talks too – I believe he has all the attributes already at such a young age to make it to the top.MATTHEW BATES
Of course, Bates is not an old man but be is a player who has played in Europe and Premier League with his beloved Middlesbrough.
In fact, the 28-year-old has played in all four divisions.
Ten years ago, Bates was part of one of the most successful Boro teams in the Teessiders’ history.
The then-teenager was a key component in a side in the Premiership and enjoying long runs in the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup.
Bates was in the dressing room and on the field alongside the likes of Yakubu, Mark Viduka, Gaizka Mendieta, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Gareth Southgate and George Boateng.
And the list goes on.
Ten years to the day from being in the squad which drew 2-2 with West Brom at the Riverside, Bates is preparing to put the shin pads on and put his body on the line for Pools against League Two promotion favourites Oxford United.
Bates is something of a resurgent figure, having played the last four games, superbly it has to be said, at the heart of the defence, starting at Wimbledon.
“I am enjoying it at the minute,” said the Stockton-born defender.
“I do feel, like the gaffer has said, that I’m having a new lease of life.
“I am loving my football again. People think it’s quite easy, but it’s not always easy being moved around the positions – centre-half then centre midfield then going a couple of months then being played back there again.
“It’s like being out injured.
“I am enjoying being back at centre-half, which is my natural position so I’m glad how it’s worked out.”
For the last three weekends, he has been paired with on-loan Middlesbrough player, Adam Jackson, and the combination has flourished.
“I’ve been very impressed with Adam,” said Bates.
“When he first came in he was having to change from Under-21s to League Two football.
“I would not say I was worried but I wondered how he’d adapt to the change.
“But he’s taken to it like a duck to water and if he keeps going as he is, I believe he has a great future.
“He reads the game well, he’s a good header of the ball, he can play as well if he has to. Adam talks too – I believe he has all the attributes already at such a young age to make it to the top.
“I’m enjoying playing with him.”
The Bates-Jackson combo will be the backbone of the side for tomorrow’s visit of League Two promotion favourites Oxford United.
And you suspect, given the form of the U’s, the defenders might be facing a busy afternoon.
But while last week did not exactly go to plan at Mansfield Town, the atmosphere in the Pools squad remains good.
Memories have not yet faded of the last match at Victoria Park two Sundays ago when promotion-hopefuls Leyton Orient were sent packing 3-1.
Bates said: “The lads were disappointed the game was called off on Tuesday night.
“The mood is good today but everyone was buzzing before Accrington, really looking forward to getting back out there.
“But that’s football, these things happen.
“We’ve been back into training and we’re looking forward to Oxford.
“May be not playing Tuesday night gives us a little bit of a physical advantage – Oxford played and we might have slightly fresher legs.
“Iam sure Oxford won’t see it that way, it’s going to be a really tough game.
“It will all be hands to the pump against a good side but we’ll be looking another good home result like we did against Leyton Orient.
“I’ve seen Oxford a couple of times and the manager has shown us some footage of them – they like to get the ball down and play and they’ve found a style that suits them.
“At the moment, they are doing well, but as I’ve said before any club at this level can beat anyone else.
“I think this league is really wide open. If you approach the match right, play to your game-plan then you can get results.”