HARTLEPOOL UNITED have completed the signing of former Middlesbrough captain Matthew Bates.
The highly-rated centre-half 27-year-old spent a short spell training with Pools at the start of last season following his release from Bristol City, but manager Colin Cooper was unable to make an offer for the defender and he joined League One side Bradford City.
However, Cooper has kept tabs on the former England Youth international and has been in negotiations to bring him back to the region since his Bantams release at the end of last term.
Stockton-born Bates came through the ranks at Boro and was part of their FA Youth Cup winning side of 2003/04 before making his first team debut just days before his 18th birthday in December 2004.
He gained further senior experience during a short loan spell with Darlington in 2005 before returning to The Riverside to earn a run in the first team where he played alongside Gareth Southgate in the centre of defence.
A terrible run of misfortune on the injury front saw Bates sidelined by two serious knee injuries before he returned to Boro’s first team in 2009, signing a new three-year contract with the club despite relegation and rumours of interest from other Premier League outfits.
The defender fought back from another serious knee injury in 2009/10 but came back strongly and was handed the captain’s armband at the Riverside by then-boss Tony Mowbray and enjoyed a good run in the side until injury struck again in 2012.
Since then Bates, a former Northern Echo columnist, has proved his fitness with his stints at Bristol City and Bradford City.