Bristol City defender Matthew Bates says Middlesbrough clash will test family loyalties
This Saturday’s npower Championship clash between Bristol City and Middlesbrough represents a classic case of divided loyalties for Matthew Bates’ nearest and dearest.
Born in Stockton-on-Tees, the central defender supported Boro as a boy and began his career at the Riverside when signing schoolboy forms for the north east club.
And Boro was all he knew for more than a decade until he left last year to take up a short-term contract with Championship strugglers Bristol City.
If selected by Robins head coach Sean O’Driscoll this weekend, Bates will find himself in the peculiar position of lining-up against Boro for the first time in his career.
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But the 25-year-old former England youth star insists that particular scenario will only be a problem for those family members and friends who are making the long trek to Ashton Gate.
“This is definitely a case of divided loyalties for my family,” said Bates, who signed a deal until the end of the season only last month.
“I’m fine with it, because I have a job to do for Bristol City and I want to win the game for them.
“But it will be difficult for my family, who are all Middlesbrough fans. They want their team to win, but they also want me to do well.
“It is one of those where they want the best for their son, their brother or their friend at the same time as wanting the best for their club.
“Quite a few of my family are coming down and they’ve asked for tickets in the away end. I’m not sure I should do that, to be honest!”
Bates left the Riverside last summer in search of a fresh challenge and says he is now fully committed to keeping Bristol City in the Championship.
Of course, he wishes his former Boro team-mates well, but only after Saturday’s showdown in BS3.
He told The Post: “I was already a Bristol City player when we played at the Riverside earlier this season, but I missed that game through injury.
“If I’m fortunate enough to play this weekend, it will be the first time I will ever have played against Middlesbrough, which will feel strange.
“I was brought up with Middlesbrough and it is still the first name I look for on a Saturday evening.
But once Saturday is out of the way, I will wish them all the best. I’d love to see them back in the Premier League.
“Middlesbrough showed when they beat Cardiff last week, that they can still get up the table and push for automatic promotion. They have a great manager and a great squad of players and Saturday is going to be a difficult game for us.”