Preston North End player column: Tom Barkhuizen's delight at being back in action after tearing an ankle ligament

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Being back in the squad and playing again has been a huge relief in the past week.

To be handed a start the other night against Sheffield United was a big boost and vote of confidence from the gaffer who hadn’t been able to see much from me since he came to the club.

I tore an ankle ligament in the Fulham game at the end of November.

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It was feared I’d broken my ankle but an X-ray showed the bone was fine.

Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen comes off with physio Matt Jackson after being injured against Fulham in NovemberPreston North End's Tom Barkhuizen comes off with physio Matt Jackson after being injured against Fulham in November
Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen comes off with physio Matt Jackson after being injured against Fulham in November

Our physio Matt Jackson told me 70% of the fibres in my ligament had been torn so I didn’t exactly come out of it unscathed.

The tackle which caused it wasn’t great. At the time it happened I didn’t think much of it. But watching it back, I was quite lucky to get away with six weeks out.

After being tackled, I had a bit of treatment and managed to carry on for a couple of minutes.

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Then I got a pass off Alan Browne and when I went to control the ball and put some weight on it, my ankle just gave way.

I was told it would be four to six weeks out and I did make it back properly in six.

Before the FA Cup game at Cardiff, I trained on the Thursday and got through that session but on the Friday it was too painful and it was back inside to the gym.

That would have been four weeks had I managed to be involved at Cardiff but in hindsight it was probably just a bit too early.

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Over the years my injury record has been good, so to have missed a lot of football this season has been very frustrating.

I had the time out when I had Covid in the summer and then suffered the ankle injury just as I was back playing regularly again.

Covid and the injury were two things out of my control, which is annoying.

With the postponements we had over Christmas, I didn’t miss as many matches as I would normally have done. But any footballer will tell you that just to miss a couple of games is not what you want.

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When I was out injured, there was the change of manager with Ryan Lowe coming in.

The last thing you want to be is injured and unavailable for selection when a new gaffer arrives.

You are sat in the gym while the other lads are out on the training pitches trying to impress him.

The gaffer was as good as gold with me, he spoke with me a few times and I got very positive vibes from him.

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I got on as a substitute last week against Birmingham and then he started me on Tuesday night.

Left wing-back was a role I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with, I played there last season in the away games at Watford and Swansea.

The manager wants his wing-backs to play more like wingers, so I’m comfortable doing that either on the left or the right.

What a result we ended up getting against Sheffield United. I was never going to last the full 90 minutes even if we’d had 11 players on the pitch, so I was sat on the bench when our equaliser when in.

I was with Connor Ripley and we were going mad as Emil Riis’ goal went in.

The ground erupted and it is moments like that which make football so special.

Hopefully we can follow that up at Swansea.