I was checking around on some details, one of which was just how much of a ‘veteran’ Darren Pratley can claim to be. And one stat which drew my attention was that, at least according to Wikipedia, he is now on 497 league career appearances (550 games in total apparently). I hope the club is planning at least a modest presentation to mark the 500th – assuming of course his entry isn’t out of date and it hasn’t already happened. And it would be appropriate if he could at least pick up a yellow in that game.
He doesn’t qualify as a one-club man of course, but it’s a pretty remarkable record to make your debut in 2003, for Fulham (his league debut was against us, as a substitute for the last 15 minutes, we won 3-1 with goals from Graham Stuart and a brace from Jonatan Johansson), notch up 50 appearances on loan for Brentford, then 177 for Swansea (the highlight obviously being scoring against Palace), 178 for Bolton, and so far 91 for us. Effectively four clubs in around 15 years. That is a fair reflection I think of how he was valued each place he went to.
We know his style is, ahem, combative. My partner Suzanne watching a game with me recently noted “your No.15, ee seems to be trying to start a fight with everyone”. Every team needs one. So we’ll overlook the occasions when the tackle was just a bit too late, celebrate that glorious goal in the play-off semi-final, and hope that his best moments with us are still to come.
You’d have to imagine that he’s hot favourite for player of the season, given his efforts to shore up the defence as well as midfield when asked. But I do have to add that some may not go as far as to agree with the following from his Wikipedia entry: “Darren Pratley is considered by many as an elite midfielder and one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game”.