PNE new boy so versatile

Tom Barkhuizen will not be able to play for PNE until January

Tom Barkhuizen will not be able to play for PNE until January

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Simon Grayson thinks Tom Barkhuizen can be Preston’s flexible friend when he completes his switch to Deepdale in the new year.

The 23-year-old has come to a pre-contract agreement with PNE to join them in January.

He left Morecambe last week, cancelling his contract at the Globe Arena by mutual consent.

But the Shrimps, who have hit financial difficulties of late, retained their right to compensation for the player.

The two clubs have agreed a compensation figure which is undisclosed.

He will train with Preston for the next few weeks, and will be eligible to play from January 2, when they visit Burton Albion.

North End boss Grayson sees Barkhuizen playing in a number of different roles.

At Morecambe, he often operated on the right-hand side of a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Last season, Barkhuizen scored 12 goals from the wide role, while he has netted five times this term.

Grayson said: “Tom can play wide or down the middle in a 4-4-2, he can play wide in a three-man attack or as the lone striker.

“He has even played as a wing-back before.

“That flexibility is something we like our players to have.

“We are looking to build a squad that has a lot more pace about it and Tom has certainly got that in abundance.”

It is understood that North End first expressed an interest in signing Barkhuizen during the summer.

Grayson believes that there is plenty of talent in the lower divisions and is willing to spread the net wide in the hunt for players. “We have our scouts looking at the lower division and in non-league because there are some really good players there,” said Grayson.

“If you get the right deal done in terms of the transfer fee not being over the top, you try to do it. They have something to prove, they are hungry and have desire.

“We always do our research into players and Tom is a really good kid.

“Steve Thompson worked with him at Blackpool and we’ve watched him a lot in the recent weeks and months.

“While Tom can’t play for us until January, he can get to know how we play, how the dressing room is here, what the other lads are like.

“He will be itching to see this six or seven weeks go by so that he can start playing.

“Tom’s not the finished article but a lot of the players we bring to the club aren’t the finished article – we work to try and improve them.”

Barkhuizen will watch from the stand tomorrow as North End face Wolves at Deepdale.

Midfielder Ben Pearson returns to the squad after missing the 3-1 victory over Rotherham a fortnight ago through suspension.

Aiden McGeady and Bailey Wright have returned from international duty unscathed.

McGeady was a late sub in the Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 win in Australia, while Wright stayed on the bench for Australia’s 2-2 draw with Thailand.

Wright landed back on Wednesday night and was able to take part in yesterday’s training session.