Tom Barkhuizen has been in outstanding form over the last 12 months.
He broke into the North End side at a similar time last year, going on to win the Championship player of the month and goal of the month in his first full month of games in a Lilywhites shirt.
He has continued that form into this season. He already has had a hand in 14 goals, seven scored himself, with just as many assists and all this considering he wasn’t even anywhere near his best physically throughout the busy Christmas period, as he explained when he spoke to The One And Only at Springfields last week.
“I had a difficult period over Christmas, form wise, and being ill and things like that; but I did not use the illness as an excuse,” he told the matchday programme. “I was disappointed with how I was playing, it was nice when I got the goal at Nottingham Forest it was like a weight off my shoulders.
“Thankfully I have been able to score a couple more since then, with the big run in now it would be nice to get keep it going to help us get into the Play-Offs.
“I came back in on the Wednesday or Thursday after Christmas and Jacko [physio, Matt Jackson] just had me on the bike and I could not go over 75 per cent of my heart rate. So it was nothing really. I ended up just lying down after the first four minutes and wanted to go to sleep, I just had nothing in me.
“I obviously had not eaten for a few days, as well as I should have been doing, because I was not feeling well. It just seemed to take everything out of me for two, three weeks. It took me a while to get used to it, it was difficult; I came on as a sub against Millwall for 45 minutes, was really struggling afterwards.
“The week afterwards I came on as a sub against Sheffield United for probably 20, 30 minutes and I was struggling afterwards. It was one of them where I could not really get my head around it, I had never missed a game through illness.
“I have played with colds, when it sits on my chest which doesn’t go well with my asthma, but I have manged to get through. I just had nothing left in with me, but Jacko has looked after me and I am alright now.
“That was maybe frustrating for me personally, I got a few things like I was not trying and I was not putting in the effort. It was not one that I was going to make an excuse for it, but the fact was that I was ill and I could not perform at the level that I wanted to and that the gaffer wanted me to.
“It is just one of those things, I am not one to make a big deal out of things like that, it is just part and parcel of day to day life. At the end of the day I am over that now and I would like to thing I am getting back to form.”
The feeling around the squad, as emphasised by the former Morecambe man, is that this can still be a season to remember, and that there is plenty of belief in the group that they can achieve that.
“There is just a real want to do something special this year, with everyone.
“I think we know that it is just a really good chance to get in the Play-Offs especially and we work so hard every day, we work so hard every game.
“At the end of the day, things in football do not always go your way and we are going to have bad performances every now and then. As much as we want to get there, the fans want to get there and the fans have to understand sometimes, we are not playing bad on purpose. If you misplace a pass or you are having a bad game, we are not doing that on purpose. Sometimes it does get frustrating when people get on our back because we are not doing it on purpose.
“As players we know we are not the type of team that if someone is having a bad game we got on them because we know they are giving 150 per cent of what they have got and that has really been the driving force for us this season.
“We have given everything in every single game, sometimes that has paid off sometimes it has not. We know as a team how hard we are working and how much we want to get there.
“Our expectations are changing now from where they were at the start of the season and it changes the way that the fans look at the games.
“There are just a few things that when things are not going our way, we do need that 12th man.
“The fans know how important they are to us on the pitch, we know how important it is to get their backing and hopefully they can do it.
“The manager has come in from day one and given us absolute belief that we are the best team in the league. We can go out there and beat anyone.
“Obviously in certain games we play a different way, we maybe sit off against certain teams because that is the way football is, you have to adapt.
“A lot of the teams we have played in this league would find it difficult that we can go long, we can go short, we can press, we can sit off, we defend our box really well.
“I think our all-round game has been really good, the frustrating thing being a forward player is that we probably haven’t scored as many goals as people want. But the fact is that we are still in such a good position with 12 games to go.
“You can see we create a lot of chances, I think we had 20 shots against Aston Villa who are a really good defensive team and we carved them open at times. It is just really frustrating that we are not scoring, but I am really confident that we can go on and fire our way into the top six.”
You can read loads more from Barky, including when he plans to ‘kiss the badge’, plus interviews and features with Alan Browne, Ben Pearson and Declan Rudd, amongst others in the latest edition of The One And Only.
The official matchday programme will be on sale from the Sir Tom Finney ticket office from Friday afternoon and then from inside and outside the stadium on matchday for just £3, don’t miss out!