No automatic picks at Pools - Matthew Bates wipes slate clean ahead of season opener

Pools boss Matthew Bates.
Pools boss Matthew Bates.

Matthew Bates is yet to decide on his Hartlepool United XI as his players prepare for their final National League audition.

Middlesbrough send their under-23 side to Victoria Park on Saturday with Pools looking to round their so far impressive pre-season campaign off with another win.

Pools have won their last two games without conceding a goal and came within a minute of another clean sheet a notable scalp in the shape of League One Sunderland the game previous.

Performances have pleased Bates, who himself is navigating his way through his maiden summer in the dugout.

But he revealed so many players have made a case for a starting spot on August 4, when Pools travel to Maidstone United for the National League opener, that he is yet to truly decide on his first choice team.

“We’ve had a conversation with the lads and told them that the team isn’t picked for the first game of the season,” said Bates.

“It’s all going to come down to who is working hardest in training and playing well in the games.

“There is 11 shirts up for grabs for the start of the season and it’s up to the players to work hard to get them.

“We have a good game to come against Middlesbrough and then we are into the final week before the first match.

“I’ve told the players that every shirt is up for grabs.

“I have no loyalty to any one I’ve signed or to players who were here before.

“That is how it has to be - you work hard, you play well and you stay in the team.”

Bates was a defender of some repute in his not too distant playing days and it should come as no shock that he has taken particular pride in the way his players have shut the door this summer.

When asked about his side’s backline, he said: “I’m pleased.

“Going in at half-time [at Spennymoor Town] that’s what the lads are saying, they are getting around each other saying ‘let’s keep this going and ‘let’s keep this clean sheet’.

“For them to be saying it without me having to is great. It’s a sign how good the dressing room is.

“Results have been good for momentum.

“How many goals is it now [against] in pre-season? Two?

“It will be nice to get another clean sheet next week.”

The game with Boro at the Vic kicks-off at 1pm.