PNE striker doesn’t fear change

PNE attacker Tom Barkhuizen at Bamber Bridge on Friday
PNE attacker Tom Barkhuizen at Bamber Bridge on Friday
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Tom Barkhuizen is taking the managerial change at Preston in his stride.

Alex Neil’s arrival last week to replace Simon Grayson was far from unsettling for striker Barkhuizen, who has already experienced plenty of change in his career.

Neil is the 13th manager he has worked with in first-team football.

Life under the ex-Norwich and Hamilton boss’s watch started well for Barkhuizen.

The 24-year-old scored and put in a lively performance in PNE’s 7-0 win over Bamber Bridge on Friday night.

For the next few days, the North End squad are working with Neil at Fota Island in the Republic of Ireland – they are back on Friday ahead of the friendly with Stockport at the weekend.

“I was thinking the other day about the managers I’ve had,” Barkhuizen told the Post.

“The new gaffer is the 13th I’ve played under in my six years in the game.

“All that change is nothing to do with me, I hasten to add!

“I went out on loan earlier in my career, so I got to work under different managers.

“Then there was all the change at Blackpool when I was there.

“When changes happen, you have to stick together as a group.

“We are a very strong group in that dressing room, with Steve Thompson, Alan 
Kelly and Tom Little staying, it keeps us really tight.

“I’m sure the gaffer will be exactly the same in keeping the group strong.”

Barkhuizen was pleased with the 45-minute run out he got at Brig.

He is fully recovered from the hernia operation he had in May and is setting his sights on a strong first full season in PNE colours.

Said Barkhuizen: “My first few months here were good – once I got into the side I thought I did well.

“My aim this season is to start as many games as I can and make an impact.

“You saw at Bamber Bridge that myself and Jordan Hugill have got a good understanding, it was nice to show that.”

Barkhuizen and Hugill were paired at the head of a 4-4-2 system against Brig.

In such a formation, the central role is one he prefers.

“If we play 4-4-2, I like to play as one of the strikers,” said Barkhuizen.

“I like to drift off the main striker, work the channels and drop into pockets of space.

“In a 4-3-3, I’m probably suited more to out wide.

“I know I’m not a big targetman, holding the ball up is not one of my main strengths.

“I like to run behind, get the ball to feet and turn.

“It will be interesting to see what formation the gaffer wants us to play regularly.

“That is something we will see as training goes on.”