BY LOUIS MENDEZ
He’s already started more games this season than he did in the entirety of the last campaign – but Charlton midfielder Darren Pratley isn’t desperate for a rest anytime soon.
The 34-year-old has made 22 of Lee Bowyer’s Championship starting elevens so far this campaign, two more than he achieved during last year’s promotion season from League One.
With an injury crisis hampering Bowyer’s ability to rotate, Pratley has featured from the off in all of the last eleven league games, a run that spanned the hectic Christmas period.
“That’s why I play football,” said Pratley, after he played the full ninety minutes of the 2-1 defeat at Preston on Saturday.
“I’m not here to have a rest. It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m 34 and stuff like that.
“I want to play as many games as I can. Like I said, I’m one of the fittest in the team so if I’m one of the fittest in the team I don’t see why I should personally try and wait for someone to come and take my place.
“When you’re on a run of games and you’re playing week in and week out, you have a rhythm and you get your fitness and you’re not rusty. When you’re in for one and out for three that can be tough. I’m here to try and fight for a shirt like everybody else.
“Believe me, at 34 I’ll still be gutted if I’m not playing. I don’t show it around the lads but my missus and my little girl know at home when I’m not picked.
“The day I’m not bothered when I don’t play is the day I’ll probably say, ‘That’s enough for me’.
“Over the Christmas period, whether you’re 17 or 34, if you’re playing nine games in a short space of time it’s going to take its toll, but the stats don’t lie.
“We have our stats on the wall every time and my distance covered and stuff like that has been consistent. I always get the same sort of match distance with a high intensity and that’s not come off.
“If I’m running 11km, 12km one game and I’m running 6km or 7km the next, then there will be a red flag like something has happened and I need a rest. But at the moment, it’s been okay.
“Like I said, I want to play as many games as I can. I’m not stupid enough to know that when we do get bodies I may have to rest a few and go again.”
Pratley is in his second season at The Valley after the free agent arrived in summer 2018 following the expiration of his contract at Bolton Wanderers. He signed a one-year extension to his current deal in August which means he’s due to stay with the Addicks until summer 2021 at least.
This veteran engine-roomer says that he still has plenty left in the tank.
“It’s tough [but] I’ll play until the wheels come off.
“I’m still probably one of the fittest [players] in the team, if not the fittest. I probably cover the most ground every game. I think Conor [Gallagher] and [Josh] Cullen, when he plays, are up there as well. I look after myself.
“They say people over 30 or whatever, ‘Can he keep going?’, you want to play as many games as you can. I spoke to [assistant manager] Johnnie Jackson not too long ago and if he had one more game then he would have got 500 career games. He got 499.
“From a selfish point of view, and a personal point of view, you want to play as many games as you can. This is my job, I love doing it and, like I said, I’m probably one of the fittest in the team.
“Just because I’m 34, even when my contract runs out I’m not looking to retire. I’m looking to play for as long as I can.”
PHOTOS: KYLE ANDREWS
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