Tom Barkhuizen has impressed this season, and the next big step in his career could be imminent.
Barkhuizen has come along way since Blackpool’s comical decision to release him. He had to drop down to Morecambe to kickstart his career, but did enough to attract North End’s interest.
Preston handed the former Blackpool fan a move to Deepdale in January 2017, and what a decision it has proven to be. In 118 games for Preston, Barkhuizen has racked up 28 goals and 13 assists.
This term, the speedy forward has notched seven goals and two assists, arguably serving as Alex Neil’s most consistent attacking player. There are even some wild reports that Bayer Leverkusen want to sign him.
Barkhuizen’s form isn’t just attracting club suitors. Earlier this season, South Africa boss Molefi Ntseki admitted he wanted to gauge Barkhuizen’s interest in representing the Bafana Bafana.
Now, midway through the last international break of 2019, Ntseki has been speaking again. Soccer Laduma’s Joe Crann has confirmed on Twitter that Ntseki is sending somebody to England in order to speak to Barkhuizen and find out whether he will obtain the necessary passport to play for South Africa.
Molefi Ntseki says they’re sending someone to England to speak to Preston North End’s Tom Barkhuizen to see if he can get a passport to play for #Bafana…
He has a South African grandfather, but was both in the United Kingdom. 🇿🇦⚽️ pic.twitter.com/WCUXIKPvjA
— Joe Crann (@YesWeCrann) November 17, 2019
This is a big moment for Barkhuizen, and given his eligibility, he’ll no doubt be tempted to take the chance. To go from the scrapheap at Blackpool to playing for South Africa inside five years is a great rise, and he could follow in the footsteps of George Koumantarakis and Bongani Khumalo in playing for the Bafana Bafana and Preston.
It’s a little mixed for North End though. On the one hand, there’s that sense of pride for Barkhuizen, but on the other, it’s concern about his workload. Barkhuizen could be susceptible to burning out a little, and long journeys to Africa and back over the international breaks may leave Preston with a worn out Barkhuizen.
That won’t be ideal for Neil and co, who may have to change how Barkhuizen is managed, but the overriding feeling is one of great joy for a player who has worked his way back up.