Barkhuizen up for Championship challenge with PNE
Tom Barkhuizen feels he is more than ready for a second crack at the Championship with Preston North End.
The former Morecambe winger, who has signed a pre-contract agreement at Deepdale, had a taste of English football’s second tier with Blackpool.
But when things didn’t go to plan with his hometown club the pacey wide man dropped down two divisions and starred for the Shrimps.
It was those performances that caught the eye of Simon Grayson and the PNE hierarchy, Barkhuizen scoring 17 goals in 64 appearances for Jim Bentley’s side.
“I’ve played a lot more games now, albeit in the lower leagues but you get to learn a lot more about yourself,” said the 23-year-old.
“I think my overall game has improved and I’m ready to go.
“I think I’m a lot more ready this time and hopefully I can do well for this club.
“It’s a massive club with its history and everything.
“I could never turn down an opportunity to play for a club like this and I’m excited to get going.”
While many may be daunted about swapping trips to Newport and Accrington for games against Newcastle and Aston Villa, Barkhuizen is relishing the challenge.
“I can’t think about it too much,” he said.
“It’s a game of football at the end of the day.
“Yeah you’re playing against better players and in front of a lot more fans.
“At the end of the day football’s football and I feel like the only thing I can do here is improve as a player, learning off some of the players that are here who have played at a higher level.
“I’m really looking forward to training with them and eventually playing with them.
“It’ll just make me a better player and that’ll be good for everyone.”
Barkhuizen has been impressed with what he’s seen thus far and understands why PNE are currently in the shake-up in the top-half of the Championship, sitting 11th and three points off the play-offs ahead of Burton Albion visiting Deepdale on Saturday.
“There’s some massive players here and you can see why they’re doing well,” said the forward, who scored against North End for the Shrimps in July’s pre-season friendly at the Globe Arena.
“I’ve trained with them a few times and played in a (training) game the other day and there’s just a feel here that we can do well this season.
“Hopefully I can come in and be a part of that.”
The winger admits it will feel like a long wait between now and the turn the year but believes it could benefit both him and PNE in the long run, a two-and-half year contract kicking in on January 2.
“It’s going to be a long six weeks,” Barkhuizen said.
“It’s almost going to be like another pre-season.
“If that’s going to help though then that’s only good for me and the club.”
As for his role when he does get the chance to pull on a Preston shirt, a winger by trade, Barkhuizen has also led the line at times for the Shrimps as well as filling in at right wing back, his pace being a real asset down the flank.
“Playing out wide I always enjoy because I can drift in and play off the striker,” he said.
“It doesn’t really matter though.
“Anywhere behind the striker or up front it doesn’t bother me.
“I just want to do well for this club and hopefully we can do something special this season.”