It was about time!
I will admit, that I was very disappointed with Darren Pratley last season. I was initially happy with his appointment as captain but his performances on the field did not show the kind of desire that you should expect to see from a leader on the pitch. Fast forward to the first game of this season, Saturday's victory over Sheffield United, and my! What a difference!
Firstly he lead from the front, he went looking for the ball, appeared to communicate well with the rest of the team and generally appeared everywhere on the field. Even my Mrs (who was only at her second Bolton Wanderers game) commented on how much effort he appeared to be putting in. He maybe should have scored with a glancing header but in fairness it was a really good save from the goalkeeper. He does love a good flick over a defenders head, it must be his party piece!
I would also like to add that I felt him and Josh Vela did some really impressive pressing especially in the second half. There was one point when Sheffield were building down the right and both players pressed in tangent and forced them back towards their 'keeper. This didn't have a direct impact on the game but it did show a bit more desire and passion than what we had last year. Which, for me, shows exactly the type of spirit and work rate Phil Parkinson is instilling into the players, something else that is long overdue.
When Pratley went down injured you could genuinely sense the disappointment from around the ground and it has since been revealed that he suffered a fractured leg, meaning he will miss eight to ten weeks of actions. Just our look eh?
So will the skipper be a big loss to the team, as the dreaded injury curse strikes down so soon into the campaign? Will we miss his athleticism, his ability to hound out attackers, pick up the ball and carry it forward? Or was the opening day display simply a blip in the other wise usual form of Pratley? Which was consistently dreadful for the past 12 months? Will his injury afford others, perhaps better, to fill in his position, like Derik in a defensive midfield role perhaps?
Whatever your answer may be, its never nice to have a player injured and we wish Pratley a speedy and wholesome recovery.