Tom Barkhuizen’s season may be over, after a knee injury put pay to the rest of the 2018/19 campaign, but he is looking forward to the next season with real optimism.
And he believes that the squad are highly-motivated to achieve something, buoyed by the news that manager Alex Neil signed a new three-year-deal last weekend.
Speaking to PNE.Com at Springfields this week, the Lilywhites’ No.29 was delighted by word of the gaffer’s contract and feels that it is a statement of intent from the club.
“It is one of those things where it is a testament to how well the team has done there and how well the manager has done here,” he said.
“Other teams were looking at him, from the club’s point of view, to get him tied down is a massive statement - I think it sends a message to the players who want to play for a manager who is going to be here and can help them get to where they want to be.
“It is a brush that PNE’s been tarnished with recently, that if people do well they are going to get bought or taken.
“We don’t know what has gone on behind the scenes, but I am sure the gaffer has been given certain things that he wants and he is really happy working with this group of players and I think the players enjoy working for him.
“I think we have shown over the last two years how much we play for the manager and it gets player’s heads right for the summer.
“We have been on the edge of it for the past two seasons, we have a great group of players and I think the manager staying will make people think twice about what they want to do.
“Players have certain aspirations, what they want to do, where they want to play, and the gaffer has been a massive part of how we have been as a club over the last two years.
“If he left it could have had an impact, we don’t know, but the fact he is staying is a really big boost for everyone. Hopefully we can have a good summer, come back strong and start well.”
The 25-year-old has been a mainstay in the team for the past two seasons, recently passing 100 games for the club - scoring 20 goals and grabbing countless assists in the process, but being on the sidelines has been a different experience for him.
“It is definitely different compared to what I have been used to over the last few seasons,” he continued.
“I suppose there is only so many times you can play through certain things before it eventually catches up with you – that’s what has happened with me, but thankfully I am only missing ten games rather than potentially 20 to 30.
“Even though it has come at an important time of the season, it works both ways, you think ‘yeah, I’m missing a certain part, but I am glad I am not missing a huge chunk of the season and I can get myself fit for next year’.
“[Getting everyone back and fit at the start of pre-season] will be like signing a few new players. The squad is healthy enough as it is, but the fact we have good numbers and good quality throughout the squad is a bonus, so when people do get injured, we have like for like replacements.
“Throughout the season we have missed key players and it seems when we get one back, two or three more get injured so it is probably frustrating for everyone, but from my point of view it is just about getting ready for next year and getting my body right.”