We all love Ben Pearson for his ability to win up opposition players, and Joe Garner had a similar repuation.
When North End signed Garner on a free transfer in January 2013, few could have predicted him becoming such a club hero – and it almost looked like it wouldn’t happen for him.
A boyhood Preston fan, Garner struggled at first. He had his first goal chalked down as an own goal at Notts County in March 2013, and he started the 2013-14 season with just one goal in his first 11 games.
Yet after bagging a last-gasp equaliser against Tranmere Rovers in November 2013, Garner couldn’t stop scoring. With 23 goals in 34 games, Garner became a Preston hero, and he continued his goalscoring exploits into the 2014-15 season.
Garner’s 27 goals in 44 games played a key part in a memorable season, as the striker helped Preston win promotion at Wembley Stadium. Even with a major injury suffered in November 2014, he broke 20 goals for the season, summing up his quality.
The goals didn’t flow quite as freely in the Championship, and he was sold on to Rangers in 2016, but remains a popular player at Deepdale for his stunning League One years with the club.
Now, Garner has been reflecting on that promotion campaign, and told one story from the 3-0 semi-final win over Chesterfield at Deepdale, in which Garner scored the second goal from the penalty spot.
The 32-year-old Wigan striker admitted that his lasting memory from the game is how he wound up Chesterfield’s ex-Blackpool defender Ian Evatt so much that the centre back actually asked Garner for his address so they could continue their battle away from the pitch, with Garner clearly delighted with his work.
“I thought, personally, we would win the playoffs no problem, and we ended up doing that,” said Garner on PNE Player’s Vodcast Special. “I thought that as soon as we got into the playoffs, that we would win them. I had loads of fans at the home game, but the thing I remember from the home game was Ian Evatt asking me for my post code to come round to my house, he said he was gonna come round to the house and fill us in, so I remember that because I was winding him up,” he added.
As much as the goals made Garner a hero, his ability to wind up other players and fans will be remembered in the same way – and he clearly relished that role.