Tom Barkhuizen looking at the bigger picture after getting on Preston North End goal trail
Tom Barkhuizen is under no illusions about how any forward player is judged.
The Preston North End winger got up and running on the goal front in the Championship with the opener in the 4-0 win over Wigan before the international break.
It was the 25-year-old’s second of the season, coming just 10 days after getting off the mark in the League Cup against Middlesbrough.
After eight last season, Barkhuizen is keen to kick on in front of goal but is keen for fans to look at the bigger picture when it comes to players in his position.
“To be honest, just getting the goal against Middlesbrough was a big thing for me,” he said.
“If you ask any forward player you’re only ever judged on goals and nothing else.
“But as a winger it does get a little bit frustrating because you’re not just in the team to do that.
“I’ve got two now and I don’t think I was on any more than this at this point last year and it’s one of those where I’ll keep chipping in where I can and if I can get myself in the right position I’m sure they’ll come.
“The aim every year is to get to double figures and I’m confident I can get there this time around.
“You just want to keep doing your best for the team and getting involved in as many goals as you can.”
Last season saw Barkhuizen become something of a workhorse for North End, starting 43 of the 46 league games and featuring off the bench in the other three.
By his own admission he tailed off towards the end of the campaign after covering plenty of ground as PNE finished seventh.
He points to his all-round contribution though. As well as being a regular provider of goals for Alex Neil’s men, Barkhuizen has a job to do when they press high up the pitch.
“I probably get unfairly judged on last season because of the way the season ended,” said the former Morecambe man.
“I played a lot of games and was on the bench for the last few games because I couldn’t move basically.
“I think I was involved in the most goals for the team last season and that maybe gets overlooked a little bit.
“I think I had a pretty good year. You don’t play every game if you’re not having a good season.
“Any full-back or wing player that plays the amount of games that I played in the system that we play will know that it’s a really tough shift.
“Everyone can acknowledge how much effort we put in. It’s probably the most amount of games I’ve played in my whole career consistently.
“The intensity of the way we trained and the way we played was completely new to everyone.
“I’m quite proud of my record last year that I managed to play in every game and to start 43 out of 46 is pretty good going.”
Not giving defenders a moment’s rest is not new to the Lilywhites this season.
But Barkhuizen says it is still something that is a work in progress, as shown by PNE’s league position of 22nd ahead of the trip to Hull on Saturday.
“You’ve got to know when you go all out press, and when you sit in for five minutes,” he said.
“And maybe that’s where this season we’ve come unstuck just after scoring because we’ve scored and then tried to get on the front foot again.
“Sometimes we need to just accept that they’re going to come back at you and soak up a bit of pressure.
“As a team we’ve become a lot smarter in that sense but we need to keep evolving and keep developing to try and get where we want to be.”
It is all about balance, after edging plenty of tight games as they came within a whisker of the play-offs last time around, North End are more free-scoring this season but have conceded the most goals in the Championship.
“That’s football,” said Barkhuizen. “Last year people were complaining we weren’t scoring enough goals and winning games 1-0 battling it out.
“We were in the top six at this stage last year.
“You can’t have it both ways. There were complaints about a lack of goals but we’ve sorted that and now we’re at the bottom of the league.
“The win against Wigan typified what we are as a team though and when we do both sides well, we’re a really good team.”
Pretty much everything went right for PNE in the final game before the international break, seeing off Latics in style to end their 10-game run without a win.
“Aside from the first 10 minutes I think it was a blueprint of what the manager would want,” said Barkhuizen.
“The 80 minutes summed up his style and what he wants to do.
“We were devastating on the counter-attack and controlled the game when we needed to control the game.
“Even when they went down to 10 men we didn’t get too excited and took our time.
“Having the skipper Tom Clarke in the backline gives us a big presence and a big focal point.
“Him and the Chris Maxwell were the experienced ones in the back five and you need your leaders to step up and against Wigan they did. I imagine that’s one of the most satisfying wins the gaffer’s had here.”
It was a victory that pulled PNE off the foot of the Championship table, Neil’s side visiting the team that replaced them on Saturday.
“I’d be lying if I said being bottom of the league wasn’t affecting us,” said Barkhuizen.
“We weren’t playing badly, though.
“If you were playing badly and getting pumped 5-0 every week then you’re sat around the dressing room thinking, ‘We could be in trouble here’.
“Aston Villa was a turning point with Maxi saving the penalty.
“The ride of emotions was ridiculous and to hang on and get a point was big for us. It took us into the Wigan game full of confidence
“Now hopefully we can pull ourselves away from the bottom three but we’ll take each game as it comes.
“It’s not about Hull or anyone else. It could be top of the league and we’d still be going for three points.”