Toto Nsiala is a rough diamond, according to Hartlepool United defensive partner-in-crime Matthew Bates.
And the former Middlesbrough man is determined to strike up a solid central defensive partnership with the “off the cuff” DR Congo international.
Nsiala has been outstanding for Craig Hignett’s men this season for the most part.
But the odd defensive lapse, some of which have proved costly for Pools, has seen him come in for some criticism in recent weeks.
Bates says Nsiala’s quality is not in doubt, but maybe, due to his lack of experience, he needs talked through games.
And that’s exactly what the ex-England youth international is keen to do, not only to improve Hartlepool’s defensive record, but also further Nsiala’s development.
“Toto is very off the cuff with his defending and he is very good with it,” said Bates of his central defensive partner ahead of today’s League Two trip to Doncaster.
“I always say to him in games that he should go and win the ball and I will try to sweep up.
“He is bigger and stronger than me so I let him go and do that.
“He needs someone who is going to talk him through a game.
“He is busy. He is good at it. I am very different to him and it worked well.”
It’s fair to say a lot of the plaudits for Pools recent defensive upturn have gone the way of Bates, after the side kept two clean sheets in their last three.
But the 29-year-old, recently returned from two months out with a foot problem, does not see it that way.
He said: “It is not as easy as saying me coming back has made a difference.
“As much as that is a compliment on my behalf, that is being unfair on the lads.
“It’s not just the defenders who take credit for a clean sheet, it is an attitude right through the team.
“The best teams in the world press from the front. The strikers want to clean sheets just as much as the defenders.
“We have that here.”
Pools have conceded just twice in their last three, compared to nine in trio of games previous to that.
And Bates says that fact gets more excited than scoring, like he did for the first time in more than two years v Cheltenham last week, ever can.
He continued: “The clean sheet was massive.
“As a centre half I would much rather win 1-0 every week than 3-2. I’m not sure the fans would agree.
“But there is no better feeling than keeping a clean sheet for a defender.
“A clean sheet is as good as the goal I scored.
“The win was big, too.”