Graham Westley may be vilified by a lot of Preston North End fans, but he did bring some talented players to the club and one of them ended up firing the Lilywhites back to the Championship.
The likes of Paul Huntington and Scott Laird arrived under Westley’s management and one of his last signings was that of Joe Garner, a boyhood North End fan who joined from Watford after a loan spell at Carlisle United.
Garner failed to score in his first half-season at PNE but the 2013-14 campaign was one where he really sprung to life, scoring 24 goals in 45 matches in all competitions as Simon Grayson’s side had a close shave with the play-offs.
They did better the following season by defeating Swindon Town 4-0 at Wembley, and Garner personally had a season to remember with 26 league goals in 40 outings.
Despite playing for the likes of Watford and Nottingham Forest at Championship level, Garner didn’t really show his best for PNE in the 2015-16 campaign, scoring just six times but in the summer of 2016 it was Scottish giants Rangers who came calling for his services and he simply couldn’t say no – how’s he been doing since that move north of the border though?
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Garner spent just one season at Ibrox but he did manage to get a goal in the Old Firm Derby to his credit – the striker scored seven league goals but in 2017 he was sold to Ipswich Town where he got another crack at the Championship.
He scored 10 times in 32 league matches for the Tractor Boys but once again it was just a sole season at Portman Road as following Ipswich’s relegation to League One, Garner returned to his roots in the North West with Wigan Athletic, where he spent over two years scoring 17 times in 74 outings.
With the Latics in a financial crisis though in 2020, Garner was released in December and just a few days later he signed for Mick McCarthy’s APOEL Nicosia – only to see him sacked just four days after his arrival in Cyprus.
Nevertheless Garner knuckled down and was prolific in the Cypriot top tier, scoring eight goals in 11 matches but in August he was released from his contract and he was able to return home to the UK, where he linked up with former manager Grayson once again at Fleetwood Town.
Garner has featured in four matches for the Cod Army so far – all off the bench – and he has stiff competition with the likes of Ryan Edmondson, Ged Garner, Callum Morton and others all vying for a spot in Grayson’s plans.
League One though is a level that Garner knows like the back of his hand and if anyone’s going to provide the goals to fire Fleetwood up the table it will be him.