Is Bates Master of Boro’s destiny?
It was nice to see an element of loyalty still exists in football these days with Matthew Bates signing on with Boro.
Matthew Bates upset the football odds by agreeing to sign a new three-year contract at Boro!
The club’s Mr Versatile, who started life as a central defender, but has featured at right-back before morphing into a central midfielder last season looked like jumping ship when his current deal expired at the end of June.
Fulham, West Ham and Everton have all been credited with an interest in Bates since the end of last season. However, he snubbed the Premier League promised land by agreeing to put pen-to-paper on a new Boro deal to help the fight from Fizzy Popsville!
Many onlookers might feel Bates is mad, but given the history of the player his decision to stay is right and proper. After all, Boro have stuck with him through a couple of serious cruciate knee ligament problems over the past few years and got his career back up and running.
Therefore I was happy to see him stay on simply for the principle involved in that Boro saw him through his bad times and now he can try and help the club through their relegation nightmare.
However, the worrying aspect of the whole situation is how much boss Gareth Southgate looks set to rely on Bates to produce the goods in the Championship next season!
He said: “It’s going to be a scrap and we need people with a winning mentality who will embrace that challenge. I know Matthew has that mentality.
“He wants to become a big part of the team. He wants to develop as a leader and be a key player in the squad and the team.”
This article is not meant to be a direct attack on Bates, but Southgate’s words smack of a plan to ignore the club’s desperate need for a central midfielder and stick with him in that role next season.
That would be a disappointing and bad move in my eyes given that Bates only managed 15 games in a central midfield role last term and looked out of his depth at times. True the Championship is not as good, but why rely on an average midfielder in an average league when a quality player can make a whole lot of difference!
Yes Bates is a decent squad player, who filled in reasonably well when required last season, but Southgate is fooling nobody if he thinks he can big him up into some world beater when the fans know he is far from it!
The way things are going it looks like another summer of the club telling us one thing – investing in quality players to get us back up at the first attempt – and doing another – buying nobody and relying on the same crop of players who took us down minus the good ones!
Written by Craig Smithson, a Middlesbrough season-ticket holder and a sports writer who blogs about football betting.