Rumours have been circulating for a while now that contract negotiations between Bolton Wanderers and midfielder Darren Pratley have broken down, as the club are either unwilling or unable to pay what Pratley is asking for. The likelihood of Pratley's departure from the club only intensified in the last couple of days, as it was touted that Ipswich Town were chasing his signature.
Now, losing the combative midfielder would almost certainly be a big blow to the club. It no doubt puts a further set back to Neil Lennon's summer recruitment plans, as he'll be losing a player who perfectly fits into his system. We'll be losing an energetic, powerful and versatile midfielder, one who I even voted as my player of the season last year, one of the very few members of our side who could potentially wear the arm band next season and also, there is absolutely no telling that we'd even be able to replace him.
It would be a blow, but I do not believe it would be a critical one and losing Darren Pratley would not be the end of the world.
As much as it may seem bitter to claim this when he appears to be leaving (although I've said it numerous times on the #LOVpod in fairness) we mustn't lose sight of how the vast majority of Pratley's time here has been pretty awful. In 48 months at the club he's been very good for about six in total. And for the rest of that he was atrocious, a laughing stock even. For large portions of his time here the most Pratley would ever manage to muster up would be a cynical and needless booking on the halfway line.
His name being read out from the team sheet once brought nothing but moans and sighs from Wanderers supporters, and we really mustn't forget that. Yes, he was absolutely excellent before he got injured and we desperately missed him for the rest of the campaign, but there is no guarantee whats so ever that he'd even be able to replicate that form once he returns from injury.
He's 30 years old now and coming back from a bad hamstring tear which could easily be an injury that reoccurs time and time again. Just like with Craig Davies, it would be foolhardy of us to put such trust in a player who could potentially succumb to a known injury at any moment. Yes, I suppose you could say that about any player, but with Pratley's age and the type of injury he's suffered, I feel the point is more prominent.
Also, you must take into consideration Pratley's wage. Obviously I don't know the exact details, but one can presume that since we signed him in the Premier League he'll be on a hefty amount, and showing no indication that he's willing to take a cut. With our dire financial situation, we all know that expenses need to be spent wisely, and spurting such a high amount on a player whose form is less than consistent and one that I feel could easily be replaced would be moronic.
We possibly don't even need to sign anyone to replace him, a midfield of M Davies, Vela; Walker, Clough, Clayton has the potential to be fantastic. A little lightweight, lacking in a lot of experience and containing injury prone players in its own right, granted, but that midfield could easily replicated the energy that Pratley provides and offers so much more in terms of creativity and skill. A signing would obviously still be needed to bolster the midfield depth in Pratley's absence, but I really do feel he's much more replaceable than a lot of other players in the squad.
For the record, I wouldn't really blame Prazza for leaving. As I mentioned earlier, he's been a laughing stock here, a scapegoat at times, and has been treated to an abnormal amount of abuse from supposed Bolton supporters. He may well think we're a bunch of fickle bastards, as he's gone from hearing fans wanting him thrown out of the club to hearing a lot of them begging him to stay. So I wouldn't bemoan him wanting a change of scenery and go on to pastures new at all. I just wouldn't lose much sleep over it.
I don't want to lose Pratley, I really don't, he's been excellent under Lennon, he was a pivotal part of our brief upturn in fortunes as he scored a string of fantastic and important goals, and he has the exact ethos and work ethic that the manager is trying to install into the side. Also, seeing a player of Darren Pratley's stature leave because we can't pay him enough would be a truly depressing sight. However, I don't believe we should blow a large portion of the budget on keeping a player who's coming back from a bad injury, ageing, probably on big money and for the vast majority of him time here offered little more than hard work and frustration.
He's much more replaceable and losing him wouldn't be the end of the world.