‘You can’t teach and old dog new tricks.’

Try telling that to 34-year-old Darren Pratley, whose manager beleives is getting better.

He's started as many league games already this season as he did the whole of last season.

And all of Charlton's matchday captain's attributes were on display in their 2-2 draw with West Brom on Saturday. 

His athletisism, quality, leadership, and 'gamesmanship.'

Injuries may not have given Lee Bowyer the luxury to rotate his squad this season, but even if they did the manager would have no hesitation in selecting the former Bolton and Swansea man every week.

“I knew he was a machine,” Bowyer said of Pratley who competed in his 24th fixture of the season in the West Brom draw.

“I see him in training every day.

“Fitness wise I have no doubt, that’s why I said to the previous owner to give him another year, he deserves it and he won’t let us down.”

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Joining on a free Bolton the summer before last, the former Fulham trainee was expected to bring a wealth of experience to The Addicks, knowing they’d be needing a wise head to nurture the products from the conveyor belt of talent which is the club’s academy.

And he hasn’t disappointed.

“He’s invaluable, not just on the pitch, but in and around the training ground,” Bowyer continued.

“Ask any of the young lads coming through, he’s been unreal.

“You need people like him.

“And as much as these lads are improving, in the time he’s been here he’s a much better player than the Darren Pratley that turned up.

“He brings so much to the team.”

One of the things he brings is a know-how of the ‘dark arts.’

Something Bowyer touched upon earlier in the season, something his talented but inexperienced youngsters lacked.


Despite admitting “it’s not right,” and it’s a side of the game he “doesn’t like,” favouring his players to be ‘honest’ and to ‘stay up,’ you sense Bowyer knows it’s part of the modern game.

“How to waste a bit of time, when to give a free kick away.

“You saw today, every time you touch them (West Brom) they go down.

“These young lads need to learn that side of the game.”

Pratley may already be a hero around Charlton for his goal in the pay-off semi-final against Doncaster, but this season he’s taken his popularity to new heights.

His performance against West Brom on Saturday was another that left fans raving about the man who wore the armband.