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He loved and was loved by Preston – but Garner says ‘that’s in the past’

PUBLISHED: 14:57 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:44 02 November 2017

That was then and this is now: Joe Garner celebrates for Preston North End and Ipswich Town in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Photos: PA / Pagepix

That was then and this is now: Joe Garner celebrates for Preston North End and Ipswich Town in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Photos: PA / Pagepix

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Ipswich Town striker Joe Garner says there will be no room for sentiment when he faces former club Preston North End at Portman Road on Saturday.

Joe Garner celebrates his goal at Leeds. He hasn't scored in five games since. Photo: Pagepix Joe Garner celebrates his goal at Leeds. He hasn't scored in five games since. Photo: Pagepix

The Lancashire-born front man grew up supporting the Lilywhites and went on to become a cult hero among the Deepdale faithful during a three-year spell most notable for his 27-goal heroics during a League One promotion season.

Garner, back in the Championship following a year at Scottish club Rangers, has quickly won the affection of Blues fans too thanks to his all-action, fiery forward play. And he’s assured them that the Town badge is all he’ll be thinking about this weekend.

“I supported Preston as a kid and used to go and watch the games,” he said. “I had some really good times there, met some good people, made some good friends, have great memories and I wish them all the best.

“But my time there has been and gone. That’s in the past now. My focus is all about helping us get the three points on Saturday. We’re on the same points as Preston. It’s a massive game for us.”

Garner celebrates after Preston's League One Play-Off Final win against Swindon in May 2015. He netted 27 goals for the Lilywhites that seasonn, including a hat-trick against Ipswich in the FA Cup. Photo: PA Garner celebrates after Preston's League One Play-Off Final win against Swindon in May 2015. He netted 27 goals for the Lilywhites that seasonn, including a hat-trick against Ipswich in the FA Cup. Photo: PA

Asked if he would celebrate a goal against his former employers, Garner – who has gone five games without finding the net after scoring four in his first eight appearances for the Blues – paused, before replying: “I don’t know. If it’s the last minute, probably. If it’s the winner then maybe.

“I don’t know. It will come down to adrenaline and what the game is like, I guess. I’ll just go out there and play like I always do and hopefully we can get the three points.”

On his rough and tumble approach, he said: “I have my own style and way of playing – it is what it is. Everyone would like defenders standing off you and giving you all the time in the world but that just doesn’t happen in our league. It’s a physical league and you have to give as good as you get.

“I’d like to be chipping in with a few more goals because as a striker you are always judged on that. I’ll just keep working hard and I’m sure they’ll come.”

Reflecting on Tuesday night’s 3-1 defeat at Cardiff, Town’s seventh loss in 10 league games, he added: “I thought it was a tough game against a good side with strong and physical players who, I imagine, will probably be up there at the end of the season.

“We’ve spoken this morning about a few things we probably need to improve on. That game’s now though and it’s all about the weekend.

“If you look at the table we’re 11th, not too many points off sixth and with a game in hand, so you have to take the positives.

“It’s a tough league. If you put two wins together you shoot right up, if you lose two and everyone jumps above you.

“Obviously the supporters want to win every week, just like the players do. As I said, it’s a tough, tough league and we’re four points off the play-offs with a game in hand so it’s not all doom and gloom. I don’t think it’s a disastrous start.

“As a supporter you want to see your team promoted. Every set of fans in the division want their team to be up there competing. It’s a long slog though, plenty can happen yet and it’s where we end up that matters.

“We all work really hard here and hopefully we can give the fans something back.”

Confirming that his recent knee injury was ‘fine’, Garner admitted that he is still managing a long-term shoulder problem ‘a little bit’.

“Everyone has got little niggles,” he said. “You just get on with it and help the team as best as you can.”

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