FOOT­BALL FIRSTS

Bolton cap­tain Dar­ren Prat­ley talks about how it all started for him

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: -

First game watched live? That would be a West Ham game. I don’t know who against, but when I was a very small boy my un­cle used to take me to Up­ton Park a lot. I am from Bark­ing, so I was al­ways go­ing to be a Ham­mer, but when I joined Ar­se­nal’s academy, aged nine or ten, I sup­ported them, too. My dad also took me to a lot of Eng­land games, so I have been go­ing to matches for as long as I can re­mem­ber. First foot­ball hero? When I was young, it was al­ways Tony Cot­tee, but when I went to Ar­se­nal and started to un­der­stand the game a bit more, I fell in love with Den­nis Bergkamp. At that sort of age, you could see he was the best player on the pitch ev­ery week. First foot­ball boots? I think they were a cheap pair of Gola boots. They had moulds on them and I loved them at the time. I had them for a few years be­fore get­ting a pair of Ryan Giggs boots and then some Puma Kings, which I still wear now. First foot­ball kit? That would be a West Ham one. I did not have many kits as a kid, just one or two West Ham ones and then the odd Eng­land kit. When I joined Ar­se­nal, I started to get theirs, too. I don’t re­ally swap shirts with play­ers, though I do have Wayne Rooney’s be­cause my brother asked for it. He is a big Manch­ester United fan, and Wayne and I played to­gether in the Eng­land U15 side, so I knew him well enough to ask. First pro­fes­sional game? My de­but was for Ful­ham against Wi­gan in 2003. I was a young lad, mak­ing my way back then, but I played only twice off the bench for them. The fol­low­ing sea­son I went to Brent­ford and played 16 times, so that was when I re­ally got go­ing. Martin Allen was my boss at Brent­ford and he is a crazy man! He is one of the best man­agers I have ever had. A re­ally nice man, a fam­ily man and he took a chance on me. First goal? I was play­ing for Brent­ford and we went up to Blackpool. We were 2-0 down and it was a half-vol­ley, quite a good strike, and it got us back in the game. We lost 2-1 in the end. My best ever day was for Swansea against Cardiff when I scored two goals and we won. A lot of peo­ple al­ways talk about the goal against For­est in 2011 from the halfway line, but I did not play much that sea­son be­cause I did not sign a new con­tract at Swansea. It is the one re­gret I have be­cause Swansea got pro­moted and I did not en­joy it that much. I went from play­ing ev­ery game to be­ing a bit-part player. First red card? That was for Swansea away at Brighton. It was my first sea­son at the club and we lost 3-2 in the end. I was play­ing against Dean Ham­mond, made two late chal­lenges and got two yel­low cards. Dean was in­cred­i­ble that day. Luck­ily, I have not been sent off too much!

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

EARLY HERO: Den­nis Bergkamp. You could see he was the best player on the pitch

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