He’s shown flashes of his ability, but Brandon Barker surely won’t be staying at Deepdale.

The Manchester City winger joined North End on loan in August, essentially replacing Daryl Horgan. After spells with Rotherham, NAC Breda and Hibernian, Barker was hitting a key part of his career.

At 21, Barker was joining at a real crossroads. He wasn’t a young, precocious talent anymore. He needed to be playing games and settling down. His City dream has faded in recent years, due to the mass spending at the Etihad Stadium. Barker now needed to think about a career away from his boyhood club.

It’s not hard to see Barker’s ability when he gets on the ball. He’s fast, skilful and direct, causing mayhem when given the chance to run. End product has been an issue, and he’s hardly one to track back like Alex Neil wants.

That has resulted in limited opportunities for Barker, who didn’t play for two months earlier this year. Not because of injury, simply not selected. However, he’s recently been given another chance to shine.

Preston North End’s Brandon Barker. (Photo by Chris Vaughan – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Barker enjoyed a superb second half at Middlesbrough, terrorising their defence to lead a second half comeback. He forced a red card for the free kick to equalise, and played a key part in the winner.

On Saturday, Barker was again introduced at half time, with North End 2-0 down at Reading. Barker again threatened to spark a revival, but disaster struck again. Barker pulled up with another muscle injury,

Having done similar in December, Barker now faces another spell on the sidelines. It’s unclear whether we’ll see him again this season, and ultimately in a Preston shirt again.

Had he continued this turnaround in form, there may have been an outside chance of a permanent deal. At least another loan deal could have been explored for a player who clearly has bags of talent.

Yet having picked up another injury, it’s clear that North End can’t risk investing in Barker right now. He may well go on to have a fine career, but it seems that Barker’s last chance to salvage a long-term stay at Deepdale has now gone with his latest blow.

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