Irish eyes on PNE striker

Joe Garner's Republic of Ireland credentials are being checked out
Joe Garner's Republic of Ireland credentials are being checked out
  • Republic reported to be watching Garner
  • PNE ace has played at three levels for England
  • Striker’s form has thrust him into the spotlight
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Joe Garner has reportedly had Irish eyes looking at his goalscoring talents at Preston North End.

The PNE striker, who played for England at three age levels as a youngster, is being checked out by the Republic of Ireland for possible international recognition.

If it is true, I’m sure Joe will have a decision to make

However, it seems unlikely that Lancashire lad Garner has the necessary family links to play for the Republic.

The scrutiny from across the water, reported in the Irish media, drew a humorous response from North End boss Simon Grayson when asked about it.

“I thought April Fools’ Day was the other week,” said Grayson.

“It is something that I will ask Joe about but maybe it is one or two people clutching for a good striker, in form, to play for their country.

“If it is true, I’m sure Joe will have a decision to make.”

Garner played for England’s Under-16s, 17s and 19s teams, although that is not a bar to switching allegiance at international level.

He celebrates his 27th birthday on Sunday and will be looking to mark it by finding the net in the top-of-the-table clash with Bristol City today.

An early present came this week when he was voted the PFA fans’ player of the month in League One for March.

Garner scored six goals last month, four of them coming in the 5-1 victory over Crewe.

He was also on target in the games against MK Dons and Barnsley, his strike at Oakwell the last time he was on the scoresheet.

The clash with leaders Bristol City provides Garner with the opportunity to banish a few demons.

It was in the 1-0 win over the Robins at Ashton Gate in November that the striker suffered the tendon injury which kept him sidelined for 10 weeks.

Despite that spell out, Garner is still the joint highest scorer in League One with Swindon’s Andy Williams.

Meanwhile, Paul Gallagher believes that the platform for North End’s promotion push has been built on the squad’s determination to put right the events of 11 months go.

The drive to reach the Championship has really gathered momentum since the start of February but on-loan midfielder Gallagher traces things back much further to last season’s play-off failure.

He said: “People talk about the FA Cup replay at Sheffield United as being a turning point and that could have been a result which galvanised us.

“But I saw a determination from pre-season, from last season when we lost in the play-offs at Rotherham.

“That night there was a real determination among the players to get back here and put it right.

“The momentum built up from then has brought us a long way.

“We did have the blip in January. Even then, I still think we should have nicked more points than we did.

“As a squad we have shown great character to come back and get on this run.

“Other teams might have folded after the run we had in January and the season could have fizzled out.

“But we stuck our chests out, got back out on the pitch and put in some performances.”

Gallagher, 30, has been on loan at PNE from Leicester since late October 2013.

He is out of contract with the Foxes this summer and a permanent move to Deepdale would certainly appeal.

For now though, all of his focus is on events on the pitch.

Said Gallagher: “If you do your stuff on the pitch, then what happens off it tends to take care of itself.

“I’ve said many times that I’m not here for the short term, I’m here for the long term.

“The important thing now is the team doing well.”