Healthy Bates would prefer survival

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Matthew Bates would willingly swap his clean bill of health for Middlesbrough's continued presence in the Barclays Premier League.

The 22-year-old utility man has enjoyed a run of 12 starts in 13 games for the club with which he won the FA Youth Cup back in 2004 before an injury nightmare took its toll.

He said: "It's difficult to put into words really. On a personal level, I am happy to be back playing and playing for Middlesbrough Football Club - but I would swap all that for surviving in the Premier League."

Bates has endured two and a half years of misery and three cruciate ligament operations, and his sheer delight at simply being fit and back in harness is entirely understandable.

It is a measure, then, of his commitment to the club that he would gladly trade it all for a win at West Ham Sunday and an unlikely sequence of results elsewhere which would keep Boro up.

He said: "On a personal level, I have enjoyed being back playing after the last two years of injuries.

"Hopefully next year, I will carry on progressing personally. Wherever the club will be, they will fight either way, and if they go in into the Championship, I am sure we will bounce right back up."

Boro find themselves in dire straits as they prepare for their final game of the season knowing a point for Hull at home to Manchester United would make their result irrelevant. However, they are refusing to give up on their dream of staging a great escape, something which only three points for them and defeat for both the Tigers and Newcastle could bring.

Bates said: "Mathematically, we are still in there, but the odds are stacked against us. It's a difficult situation to get your head around.

"You have got to stay positive as much as possible - it's not over until the fat lady sings, as the saying goes."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Matthew Bates

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