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Bates is ready to return to training with Boro
SIDELINED former Middlesbrough captain Matthew Bates is ready to make a return to the training field for the next step in his latest recovery.
Bates, who has not played since suffering the fifth cruciate ligament injury of his career in March, is set to test his knee by training with the Boro youth team.
It is an incredible prospect for a player who has had to undergo surgery on an unprecedented number of cruciate injuries in English football.
The 25-year-old is determined to make yet another comeback and Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray is keen to help him.
"Matthew was at the stage a week or so ago where he was asking if he could train with the young players," said Mowbray. "He is at the point where he is just about ready to go again.
"He is ready for physical contact again, small-sided games, so in the next day or so there is no problem for us to facilitate that for him. The days we are not preparing for a game, doing team work, he could train with us. It's great news for him."
Middlesbrough are committed to helping the defender back to full fitness from the injury he suffered during the re-arranged Championship match at Ipswich on March 27.
He became a free agent at the end of June, but Mowbray was happy enough for last season's captain to work on his rehabilitation programme at the club's Rockliffe Park training base.
Mowbray has never ruled out Bates, a graduate of Middlesbrough's academy system, staying after he has made a full recovery.
But the Boro boss thinks it is too early do discuss the player's future, suggesting Bates himself will still have some thinking to do about where he might want to play.
Mowbray said: "There's more than just my opinion in what Matthew wants to do. He is very much his own man and he will have his own ideas where he wants his football career to go. He will have strong opinions of where he can go.
"He has come back four times before. He knows his body, what he needs to do and he was always pretty confident that this was not a really bad one.
"It was one problem he had been through before, he knew the rehab, the processes and he has got there pretty quickly. He will be happy and I hope it continues to go that way."