Tom Barkhuizen was a surprise signing for Preston at the back end of 2016, taking him from League Two side Morecambe due to their financial struggles.
The transfer fee that the Lilywhites paid the Shrimpers may have saved the club, and it may have also gave Barkhuizen a chance he wouldn’t have got anywhere else.
As you’d expect, Barkhuizen didn’t come in and make an immediate impact at Deepdale, but just a couple of months into his time at the club he had won the Championship Player of the Month following a blistering run in March 2017, where he scored five league goals in four games.
The former Blackpool attacker has shown decent form in the second tier in the past three seasons, scoring 23 times predominantly from the wing, but how has the 2020/21 campaign been going for him?
How’s it gone so far this season?
Barkhuizen has appeared 28 times in the league this season, but his goal contributions have been lacking slightly with just four goals and one assist.
All of those goals came within five games of each other between November and December, so it can be argued that Barkhuizen isn’t hitting the standards that Preston fans are used to seeing from him.
But he’s also not been an out-and-out starter. His right-wing spot has been shared by Brad Potts and out of his 28 Championship games, the 27-year-old has only played from the first minute 19 times.
Are you Preston North End mad? Try get 20 out of 20 on this Lilywhites quiz all about the club’s season so far
What issues does he face?
The addition of a new winger in January in the form of Anthony Gordon can’t be great for his chances of being a first-team regular, but Alex Neil seems to trust in Barkhuizen.
He has electric pace when he wants to utilise it and that’s why he played with Ched Evans up-front in the Lancashire derby against Blackburn on Friday night, and although he stretched the Rovers defence a bit he didn’t really make an impact.
You’d imagine that Barkhuizen may be in and out of the team between now and the end of the season as Neil continues to shuffle the pack.
Barkhuizen needs to rediscover that November/December form from somewhere if he wants to retain his place in the starting line-up.
Everton loanee Gordon is such a talent that he will be starting when fit again and Scott Sinclair with his eight goals this season deserves to be in the first XI as well.
Barkhuizen’s performances between now and the end of the season may dictate the club’s thinking on his contract status as well – his deal expires in the summer of 2022 and he would likely have other suitors at the end of the season with one year left at Deepdale, so that may be one to keep an eye on.