Preston don’t have too many internationals in the squad, which has actually been a positive at times.
Alan Browne and Seani Maguire are the only regular internationals at Deepdale right now, both featuring for Ireland. Michael Crowe and Billy Bodin have caps for Wales in recent history, whilst you have to go even further back to see when Paul Gallagher and David Nugent were capped by Scotland and England respectively.
There have been some confusing omissions though. Daniel Johnson not having a Jamaica cap remains bizarre, and Tom Barkhuizen has been linked with South Africa too.
Back in 2017, Barkhuizen was seemingly wanted by Bafana Bafana. Then-manager Stuart Baxter knew of Barkhuizen having been a former Preston player himself, and was looking to call him up.
The North End winger qualifies through his grandfather, and played down the speculation in 2018 (LEP). When Baxter resigned in August, it seemed the rumours of Barkhuizen picking up a cap had died down.
However, they can now be ramped up again. South Africa coach Molefi Ntseki has been discussing his plans ahead of the international break, with South Africa taking on Mali in October.
Ntseki has spoken to The South African, and confirmed he thinks Barkhuizen is a ‘good player’. However, he wants to come over to England to speak to Barkhuizen, his family and North End to discuss a call-up, and to see whether he has a South African passport.
Ntseki is clearly impressed, but feels he needs to be careful calling up players who weren’t born in South Africa. That’s a similar situation to former North End striker George Koumantarakis, who was born in Greece but played for South Africa.
“We will have to go over there and engage him to see what his thinking is and to check whether he has a South African passport. I have been tracking him but we will need to speak to him‚ his parents and his club first to see if we can possibly invite him to camp in future.
“When dealing with players who did not grow up in South Africa‚ you need to be careful on how you integrate them into the system. If he is interested to play for Bafana‚ we will have to see how we facilitate the necessary logistics because he is a good player.”
We would of course love to see Barkhuizen given this career-changing opportunity. Yet with the possibility of long flights to Africa and back, and the possibility of Africa Cup of Nations commitments in the future, it may just impact Barkhuizen’s Preston career too.
Alex Neil won’t want his speedy attacker to miss too much playing time with Preston, so this situation is one to keep an eye on.