Bates targeting an opening day return

02 July 2010 10:38
DESPITE enduring nearly a year out through his fourth serious knee injury, Matthew Bates insists he feels better than ever and intent on forcing his way in to the team for Middlesbrough's curtain raiser.

Bates has been a happy figure around Rockliffe Park this week after making the necessary progress during the last few months to justify joining in with his team-mates in preseason training.

It has, once again, been a long way back for the 22-yearold, who missed last season in its entirety after suffering his third cruciate ligament injury on one knee, his fourth in total, of a career still very much in its infancy.

But Bates is satisfied that, after a year recovering from surgery and spending time with the man who helped Tiger Woods and Jonny Wilkinson back to fitness, he will be ready to play against Ipswich on August 7.

It's been my goal to play the first game, hopefully I can stay fit, said Bates, who was based in Vermont with top physio Bill Knowles for a while. I have had ten months out, but I had always been targeting pre-season and I feel brilliant.

This has been the longest in terms of rehab and in terms of the muscles, it's been as good as it's ever felt. My knees feel better now than they did when I played those few matches in the Premier League.

People think there would be nerves, but it's never bothered me before. I have been in the gym for ten months so If I'm not ready now I never will be. There's no nerves whatsoever.

There's worse people off than me in life. Those first few months you go through hell with the family, and then you put things in to perspective.

There's a lot of people who would like to be in my shoes.

Bates suffered the injury at Carlisle last summer, weeks after committing to a new contract after an impressive season on a personal level in the Premier League.

Looking back, he would do things differently now.

We had just been relegated from the Premier League,

said the Stockton-born defender, who has proven himself to be a competent centremidfielder.

I had a couple of pre-season games and then got the injury at Carlisle.

Looking back I was a bit naïve in that I wasn't carrying out my knee work in the off-season.

It was silly of me because I thought I was over the worst.

I do a lot of fitness, but I hadn't done any maintenance work on the leg, which I was supposed to do because I had suffered the knee injuries before.

The surgeons think that was the main reason.

It will be more important than ever this time. I will probably have to do more knee work than football to try to avoid a repeat, that's the way it is.

Leeds United's visit to Middlesbrough on Saturday, October 16 will now kick-off at the later time of 5.20pm for live screening on Sky. Boro's match with Swansea City, which had been schedule for Saturday, November 13, will now take place the following day.

Boro's visit to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, December 18, has been brought forward to the previous evening.

Source: Northern_Echo