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Former Fulham player Pratley cheering for Swansea

last updated Thursday 12th February 2009, 3:59 PM

Former Fulham player Darren Pratley
Former Fulham player
Darren Pratley

WHEN the FA Cup fifth-round draw was made, no-one was more delighted than Darren Pratley.

While some fans in these parts were hoping that Swansea City's name would be pulled out alongside Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal, for Pratley it was a dream draw.

Given his background, that is no surprise.

But the chance to show his former club what they have missed out on since leaving him depart for South Wales was cruelly denied him after he disrupted his AC joint during the win over Preston.

Not only did it rob him of that opportunity, it also denied Pratley a first international cap for Jamaica.

The Reggae Boyz were expected to hand the Barking-born midfielder his debut against Nigeria last night at the New Den.

That has now been put on the backburner as Pratley begins his 12-week recovery from his devastating injury.

Frustratingly for Pratley, he will watch his current team-mates tackle his former employers on Saturday with an FA Cup quarter-final at stake.

The conquerors of holders Portsmouth, it is no wonder that Swansea have caught the attention of various press and broadcasters from across the Severn Bridge.

Martinez's side no longer sit under the radar of fellow Championship clubs, and are now firmly in the spotlight of the Premier League big boys.

While Swansea are not too far away from joining arguably world football's top league, financially they are worlds apart.

Swansea cannot even compete with the budgets of the leading Championship sides.

On the field, however, they are more than holding their own.

Martinez has no desire to hammer down the door of Huw Jenkins and demand a few million to splash out on a new addition. That's not been his style.

Instead, he is more likely to ask for some spare change in order to unveil a rough diamond.

One of those success stories has been striker Jason Scotland, a man who has scored 45 goals in a season and a half since signing up at the Liberty Stadium.

The Trinidad & Tobago striker has been in deadly form recently, scoring 11 goals in as many games as Swansea continue their charge to the Premier League.

A vital figure in Martinez's team, the 29-year-old has proved a solid figure up front, with his ability to hold up the ball and bring other players into the game being key to their success.

Like Scotland, Fulham have their own jewel in Andy Johnson.

Though a complete contrast to Scotland, the pair have one thing in common — the scoring touch.

The England international's electric pace and finishing ability persuaded Fulham to part with £10.5m in order to sign him from Everton.

And despite Johnson being a proven scorer in England's top flight, Pratley insists he wouldn't swap Scotland for the former Birmingham City trainee.

"People look at football and the big names and there is a lot of hype, but we see it as 11 against 11," said Pratley.

"There was no pressure on us against Portsmouth and we beat them, and there isn't any pressure on us now.

"There were people like (Peter) Crouch, (Jermaine) Pennant and (Sol) Campbell in that side, but we dealt very well with them.

"Fulham have players like Andy Johnson, who is a proven scorer, and (Bobby) Zamora.

"I would put Jason Scotland up there with them. With the way we play he really suits the team. You could say all these big names cost £8million or more, but if you gave me a choice I'd have Jason.

"He is on fire at the moment and he's proved that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a class player."

With both teams doing well in their respective divisions, Saturday's live televised clash is an interesting one to call.

Fulham are in the top half of the Premier League and have been rejuvenated under Roy Hodgson.

Beaten just six times in 12 away games, they are still yet to win on the road and have scored just three times.

At home, Swansea have lost just once — against Birmingham — from 16 league games.

It makes interesting reading, and Pratley revealed that the Swansea camp are quietly confident of adding Fulham to their list of Premier League scalps.

"The way we are playing, there is no reason why we can't a result," said the 23-year-old.

"It's easy for teams to say they know the plan and how they will stop you, but when we are moving the ball so well and keeping it, it is not easy to play against.

"Both clubs are pretty similar in a way. Both teams want to play football and they are community clubs — everyone knows everyone.

"I am grateful to Fulham for giving me the chance to get reserve football under my belt. It did me a lot of good.

"But I thought I was good enough to be playing Championship football regularly and I was proved right.

"It's been going very well for me here and the whole club is moving in the right direction.

"Hopefully we can take another step by making the next round of the cup."

Pratley's plans for the next 12 weeks are simple, yet agonising.

Having undergone surgery and had a screw placed in his shoulder for the next six weeks, he will then step up his rehabilitation in readiness to return six weeks later.

"I have a sling to protect my arm, but I feel more comfortable without it," said Pratley. "It aches a little, but I have good movement in it.

"(Physio) Ailsa Jones is working me hard every day on the bike — that's what I can do so far.

"I could return in mid-April possibly. I haven't looked at the fixtures yet so I don't know exactly who I'll miss out on, but it is likely to be just before the play-offs start.

"It would be great to be part of that. There is no reason why we can't be."

Source South Wales Evening Post
Since 1998
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