Garner’s living out dreams!

Club at heart: Preston striker Joe Garner grew up as a North End fanatic
Club at heart: Preston striker Joe Garner grew up as a North End fanatic
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There is little hesitation on Joe Garner’s part when asked to recall his favourite game as a Preston North End fan.

His mind goes back to five days before Christmas in 2003 when he was a 15-year-old lad sat in the Town End.

“Preston beat Burnley 5-3 at Deepdale, Ricardo Fuller scored a hat-trick,” Garner recalled.

“What a player Fuller was – he could do some amazing things with a football.

“That game against Burnley had a bit of’s one which really stands out for me as a North End fan.

“I started going to Preston’s home games when I was seven or eight.

“The David Moyes era was obviously an exciting time for me.

“Sean Gregan and Paul McKenna were two players who stood out then.

“Gregan was a real leader and would control matches from midfield.”

The opportunity to watch PNE regularly stopped for Garner when he took up his playing career up the road at Blackburn.

He did his apprenticeship with Rovers, although never made it as far as their first-team plans.

But the striker has gone on to develop a decent career for himself, the latest stop being an emotional return to Deepdale.

Not too many people get to play for the club they support, Garner describing pulling on the Preston shirt as a ‘dream come true’.

The opportunity for a return ‘home’ arose at the start of the month.

He had no future with Watford and had recently returned to Vicarage Road from a 93-day loan at Carlisle.

North End came calling and, after Garner settled up the remainder of his contract with the Hornets, he put pen to paper on an 18-month contract with the option of a further year.

By his own admission, it has not been the most spectacular start in PNE colours.

His first two appearances against Coventry and Walsall have ended in defeat.

Then the weather intervened last week when the trip to Yeovil was snowed off.

North End will be back in action tomorrow when they host Coventry City at Deepdale (3pm).

Hopefully the visit of the Sky Blues will spark Garner into goalscoring form.

The 24-year-old did not find that a problem during his Carlisle loan.

He found the net eight times in 17 appearances for the Cumbrians, including a penalty against PNE in November.

Garner said: “Having the Yeovil game postponed last week was disappointing but there’s not a lot you can do about the weather.

“We did a full training session instead on Saturday morning.

“Although results haven’t gone our way recently, I’m really enjoying it here.

“It’s a good group of lads who like to work hard for each other.

“Hopefully things can start coming together and we can start picking up some points.

“With so many games to go, you can’t rule out anything at the moment.

“There’s often one club who puts a run together later in the season and challenges for the play-offs.

“It would be good if that was Preston and it’s something we’ve got to think is achievable.

“As a squad, we’ve spoken between ourselves and with the staff about what we want to achieve.

“What we have said will stay in the dressing room, and now it’s time to start doing the business on the pitch.”

North End and Coventry are becoming familiar foes to one another.

Tomorrow’s clash will be their third meeting in 36 days.

The first came on December 22 when the sides drew 1-1 at the Ricoh Arena.

PNE came from behind in that one to claim a point, Lee Holmes netting after James Bailey had put the hosts in front.

Much more eventful was the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at the Ricoh 16 days ago.

Trailing to Stephen Jennings’ 41st-minute strike, North End appeared to have turned things in their favour late in the second half through goals from Luke Foster and Stuart Beavon.

But back came Coventry in stoppage time, Carl Baker and Leon Clarke netting to clinch victory.

Said Garner: “You could say that Saturday’s game is a bit of a revenge mission.

“The boys were hurting after they beat us the other week. It was a cruel way for the game to end.

“Had it finished at 90 minutes we’d had gone through.

“But Coventry scored in the 92nd and 94th minute, something which doesn’t happen very often.

“We’ve got to move on from that and we’re back at our own ground to play them.

“Our focus is on getting three points, which would hopefully start us off on a run.

“We’ll have the fans behind us tomorrow, and we’ve got to stick together on the pitch.

“We are capable of turning things round.”