Personally speaking, GTBFO wouldn’t have a footballer to be our first choice to accompany us into the trenches, ill-equipped as they are to deal with the mind-bending horrors of Verdun and Passchendaele. But we’re also not afraid of clichés, and if any footballer would be described as one to stand fast against the Hu-, ehh, the enemy, it would be David Bates.
Anyway, wasn’t there some sort of fitbaw going on at the time as well? He’d be our first pick at centre-back, at least, on the old-fashioned basis that he is simply very good at defending.
That’s allegedly a forgotten art of centre-backs these days, with the utter dearth of proper defensive talent at the high-level making the point clear. Centre-backs these days play raking passes, score goals, and aren’t particularly great at stopping the ball go in the back of the net. It’s not even as if it’s the result of some vast tactical change either - Fernando Hierro and Steve Bruce were about as agricultural as you could get, and they managed to do plenty of damage at the other end of the pitch, too.
Despite somehow managing to nearly score a backheel in two consecutive games, Bates is unlikely to trouble the opposition custodian. But you’d think, down Edmiston Drive, we’d perhaps be willing to overlook that slight anomaly to his skillset. The aforementioned horrors of Verdun and Passchendaele have nothing on those of us who have travelled miles to witness Rob Kiernan, to say nothing of, christ, Cribari, Ross Perry, Philippe Senderos.... it’s a rogue’s gallery so extreme that Marius Zaliukas is a beacon of competence. Things have been so bad that “We should never have let Darren McGregor go” was essentially a perfectly valid opinion up until about a month ago.
Now, just as Danny Wilson began to show some real consistency and form, he’s away to MLS. We won’t get involved in any ill-informed opinions about the current state of sawker across the pond. But we will just casually point out that whatever level of quality you ascribe to MLS. he has essentially joined their equivalent of Hamilton Accies.
Wilson has been a bit of an enigma, and until recently it had long since been believed that he was the sort of centre-back who could only shine next to a more experienced partner prepared to do the dirty work, as seen with his initial partnership with David Weir. But now, he’s been marshalling his younger companion through games in David Bates. So they say.
But could it in fact be the other way around?
David Bates has played twelve league games for Rangers. Ten of those have been against top six opposition. In those twelve games, we have won nine, drawn two and lost just once. In those twelve games we conceded a grand total of seven goals.
Bates was thrust into the team well ahead of schedule. He initially looked excellent. He had a slight dip in form, then lost his place to returnees from the treatment table. Then he got thrust in again, put in a commanding performance at the Brendanbeu, and has kept things tight at the back with some solid defensive work.
In other words, of all the centre-backs we have, he has by far the greatest ratio of good moments to bad ones. Wilson has been solid recently, but hardly spectacular, and has repeatedly failed to strike up a partnership worth persisting with, and can be prone to runs of serious mediocrity. Bruno Alves has had a couple of good games and lots of lacklustre ones interspersed with inexplicably bad moments. Fabio Cardoso was - and we cannot say this sternly enough - beaten for skill and pace by Simon Murray AND THEN Connor Sammon, IE the worst footballer in the world, whose skillset is even particularly lacking in skill and pace. Ross McCrorie can of course do no wrong, but he looked better in midfield, where his utterly absurd tackling ability was put to great use.
In other words, it’s about time Davie Bates started getting the respect he deserves. If he was a 27 year-old journeyman we’d signed from an English backwater, he’d be well worthy of the praise. To be chucked into enormous games with little warning as a youngster, he deserves it tenfold. He might not be able to play football, but he can certainly stop other people from playing football, and it’s harder to think of any player who has a much stronger mentality.
Let’s not loan some random Liverpool youth player to fill the gap.
Give it Bates til end of season.