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You Little... Garner?
Written by Mullet on Sunday, 11th Jun 2017 16:56

The slow crystallisation of next year’s squad began with first the departures of several key figures spanning the reign of McCarthy, to make way for the securing of fresh faces. Typically, it was the familiar look of Jordan Spence which came first and unsurprisingly as Town look to bounce back from a dismal season.

Those longing for signings whether to feel that the powers that be are actually doing something, to give themselves a cause for optimism or concern, or just to break the tedium of the closed season will find refreshment in Joe Garner’s arrival at Town.

It’s indisputable that he comes here off the back of failure. His time in Scotland at one of the biggest clubs in the country, playing a standard of questionable comparability to the Championship an unhelpful measure with which to gauge his arrival.

It is a league after all where Christophe Berra passes him on the road this July to begin his autumnal years. Where his reported fee is a third of what Rangers paid for him in such a short time suggests that not only does the new manager not fancy him, he wanted him gone as quickly as possible.

When Garner scored a hat-trick off the bench against Town for Preston, a few Blues fans were keen to sign him up there and then. I wasn’t so sure, and remain so. Unlike the recent additions of Kieffer Moore and Danny Rowe who can be assigned the Roy of the Rovers story arc, Joe was once of once at another Rovers, Blackburn. He’s been around the Championship plenty and most of us will have seen him more than a few times.

Some might say, that like Moore and countless others (Drissa Diallo being Joe Royle’s most unforgettable equivalent) featuring against Mick McCarthy’s side once and doing something of note is all the scouting he and we need. That night I was annoyed rather than wholly impressed at how easily Garner blasted past our second string. He took full advantage of the McCarthy cup stumble to take three deserved goals.

My own instinct upon hearing the news was that those cup heroics aside, he’s undoubtedly decent in League One as he was at the time. Some pessimists may indeed delight, for that’s where we are heading right? However, there is more to life than goals alone, and as a stat alone Garner’s one in six ratio when he does step up a division is not likely to unite Blues fans.

But when you look at his age (29) and the fact he is expected to cross the halfway line, the immediate assumption that he is a replacement for Daryl Murphy is both wrong and the wrong type of thinking. Murphy has left Ipswich, the settlement long banked and the heartache and misery still throb like an old wound in inclement weather. Joe Garner is not Murph in any discernible way.

He’s a lot shorter, sometimes he plays a lot deeper, and is more of an all-round hustle and bustle type striker. Of all the links from Watkins, to Hugill, to Washington to Ward is some sort of compromise between all of them, and yet none of them at the same time.

Part of me feels he will play his guts out before stealing our hearts, and that’s why Mick will have jumped at the chance to take him in. He will be coming here with a point to prove and likely the temperament and mindset to get on with that. There is something so us about this signing you feel you should have seen it coming a mile off. And that, might not be a terrible thing.

As Town have gotten worse, we’ve gotten unrecognisable. That tenacity, that fight, that togetherness stretched, warped and wanting all too often. He’s the same age as Brett Pitman, yet as Brett is allowed to leave you might wonder why we bring an inferior footballer with a better athleticism. I can only feel that what Joe Garner does, he does for 90 minutes. Week in week out.

Wonder strike on loan at Carlisle voted goal of the season

He also gives us a Swiss army knife set of attributes. He’s good in the air, but not a target man. He can score goals, but he’s not especially deadly. He can run at players and cause problems but he’s not devastating. He is the footballing equivalent of comfort food, and right now what else should us fans be lapping up?

As mentioned before, the 'League One striker' tag might become a millstone rather than a crystal ball. As a young man on loan to Carlisle his astounding five in 18 was followed by 14 in 31 in the tier below (his full stats can be found here. Enough to make anyone doing that here an instant hero.

Changeable fortunes following his move to Forest (where we all know what a bad run playing up from for them can mean) still saw a reasonable seven in 28 before his career stalled for a couple of years.

The period at Preston is really where we can see the Garner we’re more likely to get. In five years spent in and then climbing out of League One Garner had 24 and 27-goal seasons back to back without promotion. That’s as far as the Murphy comparisons stretch, malleable numbers and hopes. So perhaps we stop it right now?

After impressing in that time against us, his bow on the Championship stage again with the Lilywhites makes for unenviable reading. There’s no denying that. Of the 57 goals he scored in Lancashire white, only six were not at the level below.

The Town game and hat-trick is at 2mins or so

If you consider his move to Ibrox a step up, not just geographically speaking then something happened as his 10 goals in 31 is not only respectable it marks a line close to his career average of a goal every three and-a-bit games.

If you were to market Garner to Town fans as an unnamed one in three striker give or take, we’d all bite your hands off. The perception being how does that translate across his career? Well undoubtedly, he’s a lot less prolific the higher up the pyramid he gets.

Garner is also without controversy from his time in Scotland one particularly bad challenge saw his non-nonsense approach drawing heated criticism.

He has also seen other Scottish tabloids highlighting a questionable character with an incident against Aberdeen.

Just this weekend, The Daily Record and our own Terry Butcher are particularly scathing towards Garner with his link drawing criticism from the former Town legend, something Rangers fans questioned across social media. However, one issue that combines his 'flop' tag since Mark Warburton was replaced in Glasgow is his ill-discipline.

What I do think will work in Garner’s favour is low expectations. Not just or necessarily about him, but at Town in general. We’ve never felt so low, and any kind of early form or fire from him will galvanise not just his reputation, but the belief we all have or need.

Admittedly though he could be the Sam Parkin of the Snapchat generation. If it’s felt like Town are sinking lately, anyone perceived to be deadweight piling on to the squad will be the first to be marked out.

As we look at what’s left for Mick to work with in terms of attacking options the obvious question is David McGoldrick. What can we expect from the man with so much talent and so many trips to the physio? As a foil for his creativity Garner might be the ideal frontman.

Freddie Sears as a striker or a wideman offers width and work-rate, but also seems to need less time and more opportunities to grab goals. As a partner, rather than a replacement in games, he’d possibly give Town an even more belligerent and unrefined attack that could worry plenty but not every defence in the league.

If Dominic Samuel is to join after impressing on loan, you can sense he’s closer to Sears than most. His speed and directness was enough to make you wonder what he’d be like with someone making space for him. Moore is the one man unlikely to make a partnership with Garner for me. He seems ready-made to replace him as games peter out.

The last factor in the equation is service. If that’s to come from another young loanee a la Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Ryan Fraser, Tom Lawrence et al then you must hope Mick can find a kid who gives something consistently. The overwhelming positive from the fickle mistress that is Garner’s YouTube reel is the way his head connects with crosses in behind defenders.

While no one is going to mind another dozen or so goals from someone else’s player, we need to improve our assists. The man that could unlock oppositions and Garner’s potential is Rowe. Someone who can look up and pick a pass or run might just be the winger who didn’t have enough games to get going before this summer came.

What Garner signifies is where Town can rightly expect to be. Dropping in reputation and resources then someone who has shown signs of coming good might find Portman Road the venue to do so. This is a transfer that makes sense, but seeing is believing.

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Daleyitfc added 19:41 - Jun 11
Dominic Samuel impressing on loan? When was that? He is another truly awful player, as is Kieffer Moore. I get the impression that this Garner bloke will be of a similar standard.

JimmyJazz added 13:04 - Jun 12
Recall him being highly rated when he joined Forest (think they had too many forward options at the same time - think this also did for McGoldrick). Still highly rated when he then went to Watford, but his career really went backwards there with just 1 goal in 22. Also seem to recall Preston thought he offered a lot more than goals.

BLUEBEAT added 16:28 - Jun 12
"the Sam Parkin of the Snapchat generation". 😄😄😄

Mullet added 20:37 - Jun 12
Jimmy I think that's the key to his signing here.

Without doubt he offers the versatility that Mick loves and to be honest it can go a long way in this league, especially if the team is balanced. That's something that went horribly wrong last year with various injuries and individuals not living up to their billing.

Garner is going to be a marmite signing I suspect. He plays into the hands of critics and fans alike, it all depends on how many we win with him in the side I suspect. There won't be many signings made who haven't got some blemishes on their career or questions to answer.

Dalty added 07:24 - Jun 14
Agree with a lot of the article, Mick has generally done well (especially on such a modest budget) rejuvenating the careers of other teams cast-offs. My main concern over this signing is that it's a step down from our previous type of experienced signing. From players who couldn't quite cut it in the Prem, but though they may be going through a tough time had genuine Championship pedigree (numerous examples, among them Berra, Murphy, the Hunts), to a player who - in spite of several opportunities - has never seemed to cut it at Championship level. As you say, hope Mick's seen something in his skill-set that would enable him to succeed where other managers have failed and turn him into an effective player at this level.

Mullet added 20:55 - Jun 14
Cheers mate.

I think balance is the key here. We're not signing someone who is the complete package but obviously is 2 dimensional enough to fit around whatever MM has planned.

One thing Garner might do is win us a few more set pieces, when Lawrence began to do that we clicked a little more. A mix of those has always seen us score a few under Mick, imagine getting the return from the CB's we had when Smith and Berra were knocking them in!

wychyblue added 15:32 - Jun 29
Joe Garner is a good striker and will score goals. Have watched him loads of times play against us and have always hated him for the way he plays and scores. Now he is a blues player I will surprisingly and somewhat fickley love him if he plays the same. However what he needs is what was missing last year . A supply !!!!!. Having followed the town for 42 years last year was the worst ( and there has been a few )for creating chances. There were about 5 0-0 draws on the trot when we did well to get none!! . As you rightly point out , Danny Rowe could do this from one side, that is for sure as long as he is given the chance . Living up near Macclesfield now his reputation for delivery and scoring all be it at a lower level was well known. He showed in the first half away at forest on the last day of the season that. Hopefully Mr Garner can be on the end of some of those
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