|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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