Preston North End winger eyes a return to fitness as clock ticks on his contract

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Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen will be targeting a return to full fitness after the international break in a bid to salvage something from an injury-hit season.

Barkhuizen has only made 14 appearances this campaign, 11 of those starts and three off the bench.

The after effects of Covid, a torn ankle ligament and latterly a calf injury have combined to restrict the 28-year-old to so few games.

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His appearance record this season is in contrast to the five previous campaigns Barkhuizen has spent at Deepdale.

Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen bursts down the wing against Swansea City in JanuaryPreston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen bursts down the wing against Swansea City in January
Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen bursts down the wing against Swansea City in January

He signed part way through the 2016/17 season from Morecambe and clocked-up 36 appearances, with 17 of those for North End.

In 2017/18 Barkhuizen played 47 times, then the season after featured in 27 games.

Then in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, he made 47 appearances – consistent statistics to say the least.

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After starting the opening day of the season game against Hull City in August, Barkhuizen contracted Covid and didn’t play again until October.

He had his best run in the side from then until late November when a late challenge on him in the 1-1 draw against Fulham at Deepdale resulted in a badly damaged ankle ligament, 70% of the fibres were torn.

Barkhuizen got back to play three times in January against Birmingham, Sheffield United and Swansea. However, he pulled up with a calf injury in the first half of the 1-0 defeat at Swansea.

There’s been a set back or two along the way in his recovery but he will be hoping to join in training soon.

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In the past week he’s been running on the Euxton training pitches as he pushes to take the next step in his recovery.

The timing of his injuries couldn’t have come at a worse time in terms of his contract situation at Deepdale.

Barkhuizen is among a number of North End players who are approaching the final three months of their current deals.

There were talks with his representative earlier in the season but nothing was agreed.

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Around that time, Jordan Storey, Brad Potts, Andrew Hughes and Patrick Bauer signed new contracts.

Meanwhile, PNE will take on Accrington Stanley in the Central League at Euxton on Tuesday afternoon, kick-off 1pm.

It is officially Accrington’s home game but North End have agreed to host it.