Those who believe David Bates must be holding on to at least a wisp of wistfulness over walking away from Rangers in the summer, just as Steven Gerrard walked in, clearly don’t know the 22-year-old Fifer.
Bates agreed a pre-contract agreement with Hamburg in April – only 17 days before the former England and Liverpool captain pitched up at Ibrox. The notion that he might have any second thoughts about missing out on the reinvigoration affected by Gerrard down Govan way just doesn’t figure as the centre-back embraces with aplomb his new life in Germany at the 2. Bundesliga leaders.
“No, not really,” he said when asked if he had any regrets at missing out on this season’s Rangers renaissance. “I think everyone respected that I wanted to go down a different route.
“I never had many comments saying things like, ‘Oh why are you doing that?’ Maybe some people did but I never really read or heard them.
“All the ones I saw were about how brave I was and how good it was that I was going out there and trying something different. For me, it’s the best decision I’ve made.
“Rangers were always going to get a good manager in and eventually get back to playing and doing well in Europe. I have watched most of their European games this year and they have done well.
“I am a Rangers fan and I think it’s great what they are doing. I’m always sitting there supporting them.
“I still speak to a couple of the boys and when I was with the Scotland under-21s I caught up with Ross McCrorie and roomed with Glenn Middleton the last time. So I am delighted for Rangers. “Obviously, I am at Hamburg now and have my own career and need to focus on being in Germany and playing my football.”
Bates does give headroom to how far he has come over the past three years. As recently as early 2015, struggles to earn regular game time with Raith Rovers led to the 18-year-old going on loan to League Two side East Stirlingshire.
He gave no thought then that he could experience such an exponential career trajectory, a path that brought a loan move to Rangers 18 months later, before he signed on permanently at Ibrox in January 2017, and now sees him on the verge of a first full Scotland cap in the country’s crucial Nations League encounter in Albania on Saturday. He only made his debut for the under-21s in September.
“I have always just got on with what was in hand,” he said. “I never really thought about the future [when on loan at East Stirling] – that big jump.
“But I would never have thought when I was younger that I would be in Germany playing football. It’s been brilliant.”
The defender could indeed be one of two players in Alex McLeish’s side at the weekend that was padding around the country’s lowest senior football tier not so very long ago.
Of course, Scotland captain and Liverpool full-back Andrew Robertson did just that for Queen’s Park in 2012-13.
“I think that just shows that, if you work hard, put the effort in and keep plugging away that sometimes it can work out,” Bates said.
“You will get that move or you will play at bigger clubs.”
If there is one aspect of playing for one of Glasgow’s big clubs that Bates was sorry to leave behind, unusually, it was the so-called goldfish bowl existence that comes along with such a football posting.
Yet he considers that Hamburg offers the same sort of pressure-cooker intensity.
“I liked the Old Firm goldfish bowl thing because I got to play at the top level,” Bates said. “Hamburg is the same. It is similar to Glasgow, with the media and the fans. You also need to win every game.
Obviously our manager [Christian Titz] got sacked after eight games and we were sitting third in the league, so that just shows you how much they want to win.
They want to win the league and obviously we are sitting top now by three points. I think the size of the club means we should be up in the Bundesliga, also the quality of player, fanbase and everything about it.”
Bates doesn’t want to be the Scotsman abroad in any sense. As a result, he isn’t just immersing himself in the technical facets of a more methodical style of football.
He is learning off the pitch too – in language classes with his girlfriend. This tuition appears to represent what passed for a social life.
“The fact she has come over with me has probably helped,” he said. “I don’t do much off the field – I try not to do too much.
The family side of things is different; you can FaceTime them and most home games you have one member of family out there.
“At the club, you have Lewis Holtby who speaks very good English and probably understands my accent more. I try to speak German and I do three lessons a week with my girlfriend, so she can hopefully get a job.”
Bates believes his credentials for the job he has been handed now speak for themselves.