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Joe Pritchard is making up for lost time at Wanderers

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Late bloomer Joe Pritchard is determined to show Wanderers why he should stick around next season.

The former Tottenham midfielder’s surprising rise to prominence has been a bright point of an otherwise dismal season for Bolton.

Pritchard dropped in for the final two games of the Under-23s’ National League-title winning campaign in 2017/18 and then quickly set about impressing Phil Parkinson for a place in the senior set up.

If it seems the youngster is in a hurry, it is probably because he feels he is making up for lost time having spent nearly two years recovering from a badly broken leg sustained in an Under-18s game at Norwich.

“That was definitely the hardest thing I have had to deal with so far,” he said. “A complete 12 months out for anyone is tough and I was actually lucky to even return back to football, the injury was that severe.

“I can’t hide from it. That time was extremely pivotal to my development.

“I think it did take me a while to get back – even after I got back playing. I suffered with severe cramp for another year after returning to football and I was struggling to regain match fitness. I couldn’t deal with the intensity due to such an extended time out.

“After all that I felt I was back to normal but it was a long and difficult process.

“My performances may not have been up to it back then, nor my confidence, but I gradually worked my way back up to where I was and I feel completely normal now.”

Though the pathway at Spurs was hard to bridge, Pritchard leapt at the chance to get a trial at Wanderers late last season, leading to two star performances against Charlton and Nottingham Forest in the Under-23s.

From there he featured in a handful of pre-season friendlies and, once registration embargoes would allow, got the call to play in the FA Cup at Bristol City in January.

Pritchard is now keen to get another couple of games under his belt before the season end to further his cause for another contract.

“It’s all about appearances now for me,” he said. “I have had four now and at the age of 22 that doesn’t sound too good.

“Hopefully, if I do well next year and rack up a few appearances, hopefully that will make up for making a slow start to professional football.

“I am definitely looking to stay as I’ve really enjoyed this season.

“I feel like I have made a good impression and I would love to stay on next year and get a foothold in the starting 11.”

Given the off-the-field circumstances at Bolton, there has been plenty for the youngster to absorb this season.

“As hard as it has been,” he told the club, “it has been nice to have experienced this so early in my career. Further down the line I could potentially give advice to younger players when I am more experienced.

“It is definitely a learning curve and some of the stuff that has happened, I just never knew it could do in football.

“It has been tough to take but I hope I can learn from it.”

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