SHRIMPS SWITCH STOPPED ME FROM QUIT­TING

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Jamie Holt

IN-FORM More­cambe striker Tom Barkhuizen has re­vealed he was so dis­il­lu­sioned with life at Black­pool last sea­son that he al­most re­tired.

Hav­ing come through the youth ranks at Bloom­field Road, lo­cal lad Barkhuizen was held in high re­gard by the Seasiders faith­ful, but was os­tracised by the man­age­ment and was of­ten played out of po­si­tion.

Hav­ing been left out in the cold by for­mer boss Jose Riga at the start of last sea­son, he was ac­tu­ally sent out on loan to More­cambe for a month in Oc­to­ber 2014.

And Barkhuizen ad­mits he very nearly hung up his boots at the age of just 21, be­fore More­cambe boss Jim Bent­ley’s man-man­age­ment con­vinced him oth­er­wise.

Free­dom

“I sat there at times and, I’ll be hon­est, I thought about re­tir­ing and do­ing some­thing else,” said Barkhuizen, who was also shipped out to Here­ford and Fleet­wood on loan.

“I could have gone and worked some­where else for more money, and there was al­ways that doubt as to whether I was go­ing to be good enough. I didn’t think as far as what I would do, I just thought I didn’t want to be in­volved with football any­more.

“I was be­ing played at cen­tre-back and right-back in train­ing and re­serve games for Black­pool, just mak­ing up the num­bers, and I was think­ing ‘is this re­ally worth it?’

“I was ac­tu­ally at More­cambe on loan at the time I thought about pack­ing it in – it was over the pe­riod of about two or three weeks and it was purely frus­tra­tion.

“But Jim Bent­ley had a lot of faith in me. He gave me the free­dom to ex­press my­self and – although I went back to Black­pool and played a few games at right-back to­wards the end of the sea­son – I’m 100 per cent happy I didn’t end up quit­ting.”

Mak­ing your mark in the Cham­pi­onship can be hard enough for any young player, but – against the back­drop of the on­go­ing off-field tur­moil which has en­gulfed Bloom­field Road over the past few sea­sons – it be­came al­most im­pos­si­ble for Barkhuizen.

With the club’s fans and own­ers – the Oys­ton fam­ily – at log­ger­heads and the club rapidly slid­ing down the Football League, the pres­sure on Barkhuizen was too great.

“I was al­ways classed as the lo­cal boy and it’s enough pres­sure any­way in the Cham­pi­onship with­out all of that,” added the 22-year-old.

“You don’t like to see any club go through that sort of stuff, es­pe­cially your home­town club, so I re­ally do hope that it turns around.

“But there was way too much made of the fact I was a Black­pool fan when, in truth, as soon as I started play­ing I left the fan as­pect be­hind and was just fo­cused on my ca­reer.”

Happy

A six-year stay at cri­sis-club Black­pool was fi­nally ended in the sum­mer and Bent­ley made a per­ma­nent move for the outof-con­tract young­ster.

On a per­sonal note at least, things could hardly be go­ing any bet­ter.

De­spite More­cambe mak­ing an er­ratic start in League Two, Barkhuizen is al­ready eye­ing a best-ever goal tar­get af­ter scor­ing five in his first ten be­fore this week­end.

“If you are play­ing well, Jim makes you feel like the best player in the world,” con­tin­ued Barkhuizen, whose pre­vi­ous best tally in the league was 11 while on loan at Here­ford in 2011-12.

“Be­fore the start of the sea­son I said I wanted to get to 15, so if I go and get that I will be very happy in­deed. I’d pre­fer it if the club were fur­ther up the ta­ble, but things will start to come good, I’m sure.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

STAY­ING PUT: Tom Barkhuizen is very happy that he stuck with football dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time in his ca­reer

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