RIP Mick Bates, Leeds United’s original super-sub

12 Jul 2021 11:48 am, by YorkshireSquare

We are sad to learn of the passing of former Leeds United player and the original ‘super-sub’ Mick Bates at the age of 73.

Bates signed for Leeds in September 1964 after serving his apprenticeship. A neat and stylish left-sided midfielder, he spent twelve years at Elland Road in the shadows of Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles, playing as a stop-gap often with distinction when called upon because of either injury to his mentors or Don Revie's calculated game plan. However well he might perform, the equable Bates, who played 191 times in all competitions, generally accepted that he would be restored to the Reserves when Leeds United's master schemers were fit. It was not his way to knock on the Manager's door in a fit of pique when up the teamsheet went and he saw his name was excluded.

How Bates might have developed if he had chosen to leave Leeds is open to question. He could have commanded a regular First Division spot elsewhere, and United turned down one such offer of £100,000 from Southampton, but he remained loyal to Leeds. While an excellent passer of the ball, he lacked, despite his best efforts, the quality and vision of Bremner and Giles, though the latter helped iron out faults in Bates' game, among them a tendency to chase the ball around the field and become exhausted long before full-time. Mick Bates also scored remarkably few goals for a midfielder. He scored just 4 in 125 League appearances. Bates' contentment at merely being part of English football's finest squad and the lack of a mean and hungry streak confined him to the fringes of great things.

Not being noted as a goal-scorer, the one he got in the 2-2 draw at Juventus in the First Leg of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final of 1971 was priceless because with his first kick, he scored an away goal, which eventually ensured that United lifted the trophy on the away goals rule. In the 1973-74 championship season, he missed out on much of the run-in after tearing his cartilage on an icy pitch on 1st December 1973 in a 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers at Elland Road. He finally recovered and was back in the side early in the 1974-75 season but damaged the same knee in a pre-match warm-up. He played on through that game, but the damage had been done and he was out for the rest of the season. He was poised for a comeback in a pre-season game that summer, but his knee went again, and he had a final operation which revealed his cartilage had been split across the middle.

He served United for twelve years and was a vital cog in the footballing machine that Don Revie had assembled and kept together. However, as Revie's great side disintegrated in the mid 1970's, Mick Bates went with it, transferring to Walsall in June 1976 for £25,000, where, still only twenty-nine, he became captain. He stayed for two seasons, scoring four goals in eighty-five League appearances, including one as a substitute, before returning to Yorkshire and Bradford City in June 1978. After scoring once in fifty-four League starts and two more from the bench, he returned to his hometown team, Doncaster Rovers, in June 1980. He made his debut in the first game of the 1980-81 season, as a substitute, in a 0-3 defeat at Port Vale on 16th August 1980.

His first start came in the 2-0 win over Darlington at Belle Vue, three days later. He stayed at Doncaster until June 1981, when after only three League starts and one substitute appearance, he joined former Leeds teammate Rod Belfitt at Bentley Victoria and later played for Worksop Town