Preston North End’s 2019/20 goal of the season winner Tom Barkhuizen is looking forward to the 2020/21 preparations getting underway as the friendlies begin this weekend.
The Lilywhites start with a clash with Graham Alexander’s Salford City, which means lining up against former club captain Tom Clarke, something the PNE No.29 admits will be different to the norm!
“I am sure it will be a strange experience for the lads who have known him for a long time,” Barky told PNE.Com. “It will be good to see him and see how he is getting on, see how different it is to here.
“It will be the start of a very long season, but one that we are looking forward to.
“The Carabao Cup game sandwiched in between all of our friendlies will make them more important than they usually are.
“Normally you get back playing and ease yourselves in of some sort of match fitness, but the fact that we have a competitive game squeezed right in the middle gives them more of an edge.
“I know we haven’t done too well in the past in the cup competitions, but we don’t go out there where we don’t want to win. It will be a good test and it will be nice if we can get the season started with a win.”
With the fixtures having been released at 9am on Friday morning, speaking before the 46 games were announced, the forward admitted he would be checking out some of the longer trips of the season, as well as seeing what happens before fans are allowed back into stadia.
“When you look at them, you just don’t want back-to-back long trips,” he continued. “You don’t want to go to Norwich away and then to somewhere in London away; we had it a few years ago with Norwich, followed by Derby and we were away from home for about five days.
“Lads have got families and they enjoy being at home, which is natural, so as long as things like that aren’t in place, I am not too bothered how they come out, as you play everyone twice anyway, so it doesn’t matter too much when you play them!
“Certain grounds have certain tendencies where the crowd add to the way that they play or the intensity that they play, so that will be interesting, so see who we play without crowds and then see how teams cope with that.
“We had a taste of it at the end of last season, but when it the start of a new season, there is a different mindset and it could potentially be a bit more difficult.
“We said that when we came back, that the worst thing that could happen to us would be to not make the Play-Offs. We didn’t have anything to lose, we just had to try and do what we could do and, unfortunately, we came short.
“At the start of a new season, everyone’s on zero points and your first target is to get to 50 and if you haven’t got that extra backing behind you, it could potentially be a little bit more difficult, so having no fans will be a factor for the first month or so and we will see what happens after that.”
With the start of the preparatory games and the intensity of the new season, how important are the upcoming friendlies? And what about the shorter pre-season length?
“We are taking off what are six weeks of the season from normal,” Tom explained. “That means a few extra midweek games, but we are used to them and the back end of last season gave us a taste for what a lot of this season is going to be like.
“The amount of work the staff put in here to make sure we get the right rest and the right time off and preparation, I am sure it won’t be too much of a problem and I am just looking forward to seeing how we can do this year.
“There was no bedding in the first three days [of pre-season], that is for sure! Especially when you land back from holiday the day that you are due back in!
“I was expecting a nice easy bit of testing, but it was straight back into it, which is not enjoyable, but I am old enough now to know what pre-season is like.
“It is what it is, you just get through it and then you can look forward to the start of the season.”
And of the aforementioned goal of the season award, the former Morecambe man is hoping that there is more to come in 2020/21.
“It is always nice to win personal accolades, whatever they are, as they are things you can look back on at the end of your career – it was a good goal and hopefully I can do the same again this year.
“It adds to the whole day in general when it is derby day; there is a lot of anticipation and a lot of nervousness around games like that, especially for the crowd and to top off what started as a bad day and end it like that is always nice and I am sure it is something I will always look back on,” he added.