Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Big week for Callum Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen
You wait for much of the summer for big news to come out of Preston and two stories come along in the space of three days.
Tom Barkhuizen’s new contract was announced on Tuesday, then on Thursday we found out that Callum Robinson was on his way out of Deepdale to join Sheffield United.
Welcome to the reality of a Championship club who follow a model of nurturing young players and polishing up rough diamonds.
Some they manage to hold on to, others they lose when the offer of big money is too good to refuse.
Robinson follows the same path as Jordan Hugill and Greg Cunningham who have taken the path to the Premier League.
They are just examples of the last year-and-a-half, look back over the decades and others have left North End to try their luck elsewhere.
Towards the end of the 1970s, Mick Elwiss and Michael Robinson were two players lured away by big transfer fees.
In the 1980s, it took more modest sums to take Nigel Jemson, Brian Mooney and Gary Brazil off to pastures new.
Post-Millennium, Jon Macken and David Nugent were two to be sold for big fees – the £6m sale of Nugent to Portsmouth in 2007 a club record until West Ham paid around £9.5m for Hugill in January 2018.
North End are a selling club but then again, there aren’t many who are not.
For some, it is just more of a reality than others.
You would need a heart of stone in order to begrudge Robinson his move to the Premier League.
Sheffield United might be newcomers there this season and like any promoted club the bookies will taking bets aplenty onthem making a quick Championship return.
But they are there dining at the top table of English football in 2019/20 and in an industry where relatively few look beyond the short term, sometimes players have to take a chance – it could be now or never for Robinson.
It was twist or stick for North End with him.
Sell now and get a fee in the region of £8m, or let him run down his contract in the hope he continued to fire the goals and produce the assists?
Doing the latter, there was then the risk of Robinson leaving for free on a Bosman next summer.
It probably is the right choice to cash in but it could also be argued that his value is higher than Hugill.
PNE’s extra leverage with Hugill was the fact he had 18 months left on his contract – Robinson has just a year.
They got plenty out of Robinson in his time here, both during his time on loan and as a permanent signing.
He grew into the club, they suited one another and gradually Robinson turned into a player who drew some admiring glances from clubs higher up.
It wasn’t too long ago that the only debate he sparked among PNE supporters was the fact he wore gloves when it was relatively warm!
Now we are debating if £8m or so was not quite enough for him.
What Preston supporters will be waiting to see now is how some of the fee received is spent on incomings.
North End are not alone when it comes to agreeing the sale of a prized asset.
Birmingham, Swansea, West Bromwich, Brentford, Leeds, Bristol City, QPR and Luton have done likewise.
Think Che Adams, Dan James, Pontus Jansson, Ezri Konsa, Lloyd Kelly, Craig Dawson, Jay Rodrieguez, Luke Freeman and James Justin. They are just a few players who have moved for big fees this summer.
Brentford and Bristol City seem to be the ones who to date have used the big sales to finance incoming deals.
Players move on, that is part of how football works, it is how they are replaced that can define a sale.
As Robinson departs, let us not forget the new deal signed by Barkhuizen.
The lad has done pretty well hasn’t he?
He once described how at former club Blackpool, he was used by a manager as a ‘cone in training’.
A spell further up the coast at Morecambe was to see him used properly and it was there that he came to the attention of North End.
It was in November 2017 that they signed him at a time when the Shrimps were in the grip of a financial crisis.
The compensation they paid for Barkhuizen was used by Morecambe to meet their next wage bill. A bit-part player to start with, Barkhuizen came to prominence in March 2017 when he was handed his first start against Fulham.
He scored that afternoon at Craven Cottage and went on to score six goals in his first six Preston starts.
In an interview this week, Barkhuizen admitted he was not the most pleasing-on-the-eye type of player.
He was not, for example, a Robinson type who likes a trick and a turn.
Barkhuizen is about pace, running into space behind defences and doing damage that way.
He was one of a handful of players forced to sit out the final couple of months of last season by injury.
Safe to say he was badly missed and having him secured on a new three-year contract will be a big comfort ahead of the start of the season.