Exclusive Tom Barkhuizen PNE column

Warming up before PNE's game at Burton
Warming up before PNE's game at Burton
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It was great to be in the Preston squad against Burton the other week after my move from Morecambe was made official.

While I was an unused sub, it was nice to feel a part of the squad properly, to do the warm-up with the lads and see my name on the teamsheet.

Last weekend, it was a bit frustrating to be cup-tied for the Arsenal game, it was back to not being involved.

Things like that happen in football and I’m ready to play against Brighton this weekend if selected in the squad.

I had six or seven weeks’ training here after agreeing to sign and that was a big help.

During that time I got to know the lads and staff really well, which helped me to settle in quickly.

They are a good bunch of lads here and from the word go, they made me feel really welcome.

A big thing was having the time to adapt to the intensity and quality of the training.

Stepping up from League Two to the Championship, there is a gap to bridge in terms of the quality.

It took me a couple of weeks to get used to it but I feel that I’ve adapted well – I feel like one of the lads, part of the group.

There were two or three bounce games, which were good to play in as far as my match fitness was concerned.

Playing in those certainly beat doing the extra running after training!

They might only have been bounce games but 90 minutes is 90 minutes, and you are able to do things which you can’t replicate in training.

In terms of the other lads, they are a friendly bunch and I’ve made some good friends.

The younger lads tend to stick together, I’m close with Liam Grimshaw, Ben Pearson and also Bailey Wright before he left last week.

In the dressing room I sit next to Jermaine Beckford who I get on with really well. In a morning, I drive in with Alex Baptiste, who I have known for a long time.

Like any new player, I had to stand up in front of the lads and sing as my initiation.

I did it when we went to Ireland before Christmas, I sang an Irish song which didn’t seem to go down very well!

Doing the song is more nerve-wracking than playing so I’m glad it is out of the way.

Looking back to the game against Arsenal, you could not help but be impressed by our performance, especially in the first half.

Speaking to Glynn Snodin after the game, Snods said it was the best half of football he had seen us play in this four years here.

We looked like the Premier League team in the first half .

In the second half, Arsenal were more like themselves and started to cause problems.

I’m sure the talk at half-time in the dressing room was to try and keep things tight for the first 15 or 20 minutes and see what happened.

But Arsenal scoring early in the half gave them a lift and they pushed on from there.

I know they rested a couple of big players in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil but a lot of that team were Premier League regulars.

We didn’t deserve to lose the game – I thought we did enough for a replay.

The last-minute goal was an absolute killer, a bit like the one Sheffield Wednesday scored the other week.

We now turn our focus to playing Brighton, with a big game at Aston Villa the week after.

Brighton are top of the league and will probably get promoted.

Then you have got Villa, who had a shaky start to the season but have improved so much recently.

These two games show just how competitive the division is, with some big clubs and big budgets in there. When it comes to what my best position is now that I’m here at Preston, I would say right or left wing.

I can play in a few different positions but if the manager asked where I most wanted to play, it would be the wing.

But don’t get me wrong, I’ll play anywhere to get a chance.

I have played at right-back, wing-back, as a striker and in the hole in the past. If they asked me to play centre-half, I would give it a go.

Since moving to Preston, I haven’t forgotten about my former club Morecambe.

I have got some good mates there, while the manager Jim Bentley sent me a text when he heard I had been in the squad at Burton.

Jim was someone I always got on with very well.

There have been no hard feelings about me coming here because of the circumstances.

Morecambe have won a couple of games recently and hopefully they can push on and stay up.

There is a great spirit at the club – the bond between the manager and supporters was seen last week when they had the whip-round to pay Jim’s fine from the FA.

You could see how much he appreciated that – there was a tear in his eye when the money was handed over.

The fans love him and what they did in paying the fine for him was brilliant.

Recently, Morecambe have been going down a dark road in what has been happened off the pitch but hopefully things will get a lot better for them soon.