Loan Report – Tom Barkhuizen

The size of Blackpool’s squad this season, combined with the lack of a reserve team and a dearth of behind closed doors friendlies, has resulted in several players going on loan in search of much-needed football. One such player is Tom Barkhuizen, possibly the most-promising youngster on the club’s books. Barkhuizen signed on loan for Hereford United towards the end of August, with his initial spell ending earlier this week.

From the outside looking in, it appears to have been a successful move for Barkhuizen, but as yet no decision seems to have been made about his next step. Hereford fan Bobo from Bulls News (@BullsNewsBlog) is keen to see Barkhuizen remain at Edgar Street for the remainder of the season, and has been kind enough to share his considered thoughts on how the young forward has been getting on away from Bloomfield Road. Over to Bobo…

The signing of Tom Barkhuizen was met with a near-universal ‘who?’ from the Bulls faithful three months ago. Now, he’s the first name on the team sheet for quite a few. Only the resident Blackpool fan on the Bulls Banter forum had heard of him, and he was full of praise. A few days later Barkhuizen had scored within a dozen minutes of his debut in the Johnstones Paint Trophy, and the word spread quickly that he could have something about him.

Bulls fans haven’t had a lot to shout about this season, especially at the time of his arrival, but he started to provide some of the bright points to our performances. A willing worker, with pace to scare the average League Two defender, he was regularly deployed wide and allowed to dart into the box whenever it took his fancy. We’ve changed our footballing philosophy since his arrival, from a passing team to a more direct John Beck-esque style since former Preston boss Gary Peters’ ‘Director of Football’ appointment, but it only seems to have allowed the teenager even more free rein to bomb into the box at will chasing down the ever-longer balls pumped forward.

He’s been used primarily as a winger, mainly on the right but has been known to switch sides during games, as we often tended to field one lump of a striker up top and rely on the wingers to come in and feed off his knock-downs. His finishing has been second to none, literally. His record of converting shots to goals beats out any of the top scorers in the division comfortably, making him our clear top scorer despite getting little more than one shot per match on average. His crossing has also been good, but he will often loft dangerous balls into spaces our strikers haven’t had time to get into yet. He probably needs to learn to let his team mates catch him up!

Is he good enough for the Championship? Probably not yet. He’s barely turned 19 and is growing in confidence in every game, but such a leap is probably too far just now. Come the end of the season, at this rate of improvement, he’ll be ready for the step up but another six months learning the game against some of the wily old pros (and the quite obvious underhand tactics to stop him) in League Two will be a much better education than the odd reserve match could manage. He’s probably capable of League One now, but we don’t really want that to happen.

We’re awaiting Ian Holloway’s answer to our request to keep him here, and every Bulls fan hopes the answer is yes.