It wasn't a risk giving Matt Bates a contract, says Bristol City boss Derek McInnes
BRISTOL City boss Derek McInnes is adamant his decision to offer Matt Bates a short-term contract does not represent a gamble.
A free agent after leaving Middlesbrough in the summer, the 25-year-old defender has signed on with the Championship club until January 16.
To those outside of Ashton Gate, the move could be construed as risky to say the least, given the former England youth international's history of persistent knee trouble. But those City fans who watched Saturday's 1-1 draw with Blackpool, in which Bates made his debut, will no doubt appreciate why McInnes is so keen to give the Stockton-born defender an opportunity to prove his fitness and earn a long-term deal.
Out of action for more than seven months, the centre-half gave an assured performance and contributed to a much-improved defensive display by a City side that ended a run of seven straight defeats to move off the foot of the table.
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McInnes said: "Considering how long Matthew has been out, his performance was excellent.
"It was not just his general play, but the fact he played with such composure and authority.
"That says everything about the kind of person and player he is. That he keeps coming back from these injuries says a lot about his character and quality.
"There was only a risk in terms of his lack of games – there was never a risk about the lad himself.
"He is a confident and assured individual and I thought he brought that authority to our back four. I thought we were fundamentally better throughout."
Although any further decision on his future will be delayed until January, Bates is looking for a new club after severing his ties with Middlesbrough, the team he supported as a boy.
If he remains free of injury and plays regularly for City between now and then, there is every chance City's board of directors will sanction a deal until the end of the season should the manager wish to keep Bates on board.
McInnes said: "We know he can play the level and, for me, he has a real pedigree. He is a class act and there were a lot of clubs in the Premiership looking at him.
"Middlesbrough wanted to keep him and then he had another injury, which set him back.
"He has trained well with us for a couple of weeks now and I have no doubts about his ability.
"Centre-half is a position we need to look at and this deal gives Matthew an opportunity to play some games and show what he can do."
Meanwhile, Bobby Reid is expected to feature in City's starting line-up in tonight's Under-21 Development League fixture against Barnet at Ashton Gate (7pm).
Named among the substitutes against Blackpool, the teenage midfielder made only his second Championship appearance when he replaced Neil Kilkenny in the closing stages.
Recently handed a two-and-a-half year contract extension, the academy product will be hoping to impress manager McInnes and retain his place in the senior squad for Saturday's long trip to Middlesbrough.