Preston North End taking patient approach over Tom Barkhuizen’s return

Frankie McAvoy says Preston North End are being guided by specialist advice in giving Tom Barkhuizen all the time he needs to return to fitness after Covid.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 11th September 2021, 8:00 am

The winger has not played since the opening day of the season, returning a positive test in the week that followed.

Although he came back to Euxton on a phased return, as is the protocol after the virus, Barkhuizen has struggled.

He is asthmatic and that has slowed his recovery to a point where North End sent him to see a specialist.

Tom Barkhuizen has only played one game so far this season

For now, Barkhuizen is working in the gym as he builds up his fitness levels.

PNE head coach McAvoy said: “Tom has not come back from this as well as others have done.

“When I had Covid last year I took a month to get back into work. Tom has asthma which is a big factor here, that has meant that it’s affected him worse.

“We have to make sure we deal with it the right way.

“The right way is how the doctors and specialist are dealing with Tom and we are taking our lead from them.

“What the wrong thing would be is for Tom to come back in at the moment.

“He can’t do any work on the field, he can do the stuff indoors in the gym.

“We have to make sure he gets his fitness right before moving him out on to the grass to train.”

Like all clubs, North End have had Covid cases.

They have also had players having to isolate as they were close contacts of people who tested positive.

The majority of the squad are doubled jabbed now but it is something they are having to keep a constant eye on.

It could be that Barkhuizen misses the next couple of weeks at least.

September is a busy month for PNE with a run of Saturday/Tuesday/Saturday football through to the October international break.

That starts today against Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

McAvoy said: “We didn’t start the season well but we’ve got better.

“We did well in the last game against Swansea, I thought we cranked up the level of our play.

“I’m hoping that will be a lever we have pulled to help us kick on.

“We’ve got a tough game at Bristol City – they got a good result at Cardiff when we played Swansea.

“Since the last game we’ve brought in Ali McCann and Josh Murphy who we think will be very good additions.

“Josh’s pace is frightening, very explosive. He can take the ball in tight areas, turn and get at the opposition.

“We’d been looking at him for a number of weeks but he’d been involved in the cup games for Cardiff. We were pleased to get it done.”