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.
“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.”
A six-year stay at crisis-club Blackpool was finally ended in the summer and Bentley made a permanent move for the out-of-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.