Guy Bates: 'I signed for Newcastle at eight and it takes its toll on the body. The money's not sustainable or stable enough to put football first'

Sun, Jul 02 2017

None Credit: Al Robinson (ETPhotos)

From England to Australia, Belgium and Ireland (both sides of the border), Guy Bates’ football career has taken him far and wide, but he now counts Drogheda as home.


Geordie-born Bates joined hometown club Newcastle United at age eight in 1993. After 11 years progressing through the Magpies’ underage ranks, setting several junior scoring records, the young striker was gutted upon release.


“It was one of those situations that I didn’t understand,” he told extratime.ie.


“I was top goalscorer for the under-19s, the reserves, and thought I was going to get more chances in the first team.


“To be told that I was surplus to requirements was disillusioning. I now look back at the coaching and the education I received, not the adversity or disappointments.”


Following a trial in early 2005, the Englishman penned a two-year deal with recently-formed Australian outfit the Newcastle Jets, but after featuring prominently in pre-season competitions, made just three league appearance in ten months before leaving by mutual consent.


“I felt I could stamp my ground in a new league. I started my first league game up front and then the next on the wing. Anybody who’s seen me play would know that I’m not a winger (laughs).


“Results didn’t go our way and we brought in a new manager, who wanted to put his own ideas into the club. I knew I was falling down the pecking order and didn’t want to be there. Rather than see out my contract, I wanted to go back and prove myself all over again.”


Returning from Down Under, Guy rejected Belgian side K.V. Mechelen for lowly Darlington.


“Mechelen were the right club, but at the wrong time. Being in Australia for ten months, it was important that I was around my family and not in another country.


“It was only a short-term contract, but it meant that I could be home with my parents. We just missed out on the play-offs in the last game of the season and I was coming into the last month of the contract, knowing that I would be going to play in Belgium.”


After a season with K.V. Oostende, Bates signed for Drogheda United during the summer of 2007 and went on to score the winner against Cork City, which secured the club’s maiden Premier Division title.


“It was a different pressure than anywhere else I’d been. Even though I’d played in Australia, Belgium and for Darlington, they were mid-table sides.


“You came to Drogheda and it was like we had to win this league. There’d been huge investment and an expectation.


“There was a different feel from supporters, people around town, sponsors and from the chairman down.


“The night we beat Cork, I had friends over from the UK and one of their sons was mascot for the game. We were talking the night before about if I scored the goal to win the league. It was fairytale stuff.”


Guy left Drogheda in 2008 for a solitary season at Belgian Third Division side R.A.A. Louviéroise, reappearing with the Boynesiders under contrasting circumstances.


“I came from the Belgian off-season and into Drogheda during the middle of the campaign, playing catch up.


“We were a struggling team at the bottom of the table, but got stronger towards the end, beating Bray in a relegation play-off. The feeling we got walking off the pitch, knowing that we kept the club safe was utter satisfaction.”


Two years at Blyth Spartans followed before a move to Glenavon in 2012. During Bates’ second season with the Lurgan Blues, he helped them to their first Irish Cup since 1997 as they defeated Ballymena United 2-1 in the final.


“Nobody expected anything of us. If you get a good team and great camaraderie, you can do anything. We weren’t the most talented team, but had boys who would work hard and run through a brick wall for one another.


“We had a real tough road to the final, but once there, we knew that nobody would let us down and we were going to take that trophy home.”


Regardless of a previous two-year contract extension, Guy moved to Australia in August 2014, turning out for Northern New South Wales Premier League club Adamstown Rosebud.


“I was headhunted by a business over there and the opportunity was too good to turn down. I had an agreement with Glenavon that they’d let me go when this came about, but it was unfortunate timing.”


A year later, Bates returned to Northern Ireland, joining Linfield, who bought out his remaining Glenavon contract. But why the unexpected turnaround?


“It was the manager, Warren Feeney. He rang me up in Australia and offered a contract. What he’s done in the game and his vision for the club, was a brilliant package.”


Limited first-team chances under new boss David Healy, saw Guy begin a second spell at Glenavon, in 2016, despite the apparent snub a year earlier.


““There were things said and portrayed in the media that weren’t accurate. There were certain supporters, who didn’t want to see me there, but others were delighted I was back. In the end they respected me because every time I put on the jersey, I gave everything I had.”


These days Bates has put football to one side, as he focuses on other avenues.


“I’ve just finished a college course and become a personal trainer and fitness coach. I’m also working at a place called Integral and as a gym instructor.


“At this moment in time I’ve set myself away from the game because I’m 31 now and been in football a long time.


“I signed for Newcastle at eight and it takes its toll on the body. Plus, the money’s not sustainable or stable enough to put football first, which is a shame.”


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