AHEAD of Middlesbrough's Friday night football in front of the biggest crowd of 2012, the club's former skipper Matthew Bates has been told to embrace a 'new chapter in his life'.

Stockton-born Bates has been at Boro's training base working on his fitness after recovering from a fifth cruciate knee ligament operation despite the fact he became a free agent at the end of his contract in the summer.

But the 25-year-old, who has interested Bristol City and Swansea City in the past, has decided to pursue change of direction in his career after talks with Middlesbrough broke down.

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And Mowbray, speaking ahead of tonight's Championship date with Sheffield Wednesday at the Riverside Stadium, explained: "The club had been having conversations with Matthew. It was decided he would move on.

"Matthew was captain of the club and a stick-on starter last season, but I knew he wasn't going to be ready until November and he has had five cruciate ligament injuries, we had to plan without him.

"Matthew Bates is not a fourth choice centre-back in my mind. But is he behind Jonathan Woodgate, Andre Bikey and Seb Hines at the minute? He probably is, with respect to him.

"I told him that he should see this as a new chapter in his life. I left the club when I was 27, a few of his mates have gone and are enjoying their football. A change can be good, he's been here since the age of 12 and he was a bit sad. But sometimes you need to fly the nest."

Bates has made 134 appearances for Middlesbrough since making his debut in the 3-2 win over Manchester City at the Riverside in December 2004.

His career has been plagued by serious injury but has always shown the determination to bounce back and he will now be looking for a new club to kick-start his playing days once more.