Date: 17th June 2009 at 7:39pm
Written by:

Full Name Simon Garner
Date of Birth 23rd November 1959
Place of Birth Boston, England
Position Striker
Clubs Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion, Wycombe Wanderers and Torquay United (Loan)

Simon Garner was dubbed the Lincolnshire poacher during a 14-year Blackburn career that brought him 192 goals in 565 games. And the Boston-born striker was still finding the net on a regular basis when he eventually left Ewood Park in 1992, helping both West Brom and Wycombe to promotion via the play-offs.

Garner was educated at Boston Grammar School and played for local club Boston United. He joined Blackburn Rovers as an apprentice, turning professional in July 1978. His debut came the following season against Newcastle United in 1978 at St. James’ Park, the first of 484 league games for Rovers, in which he scored 168 goals.

His second goal in his hat-trick against Manchester City in 1989, secured Garner’s place among the legends of Blackburn – for it was then that he had scored more goals in the Football League than any other player in the history of the club.

In his final season at Ewood Park, he helped fulfil chairman Jack Walker`s dreams as Blackburn were promoted in time for the first Premier League season.

That summer, in August 1992, he moved to West Bromwich Albion for a fee of £30,000. He made 33 league appearances for the Baggies, scoring 8 more goals before moving to league newcomers Wycombe Wanderers in February 1994 on a free transfer, and helping them to promotion in their first season in the league by scoring in both legs of the play-off semi-final against Carlisle United, and also in the play-off final at Wembley against Preston North End.

In January 1996, he moved to Torquay United on loan, playing 11 league games, but only scoring 1 goal for Eddie May’s side. After 66 league games for Wycombe, scoring 15 goals, he left to join non-league Woking on a free transfer in June 1996.

He later joined Wealdstone, where he spent two years, before moving on to Windsor & Eton and finally, in October 1999, to Flackwell Heath before hanging up his boots at the end of the 1999-2000 season to concentrate fully on his painting and decorating business, Home Design Decorators.

Every League club has a folk hero; a player who becomes at first a favourite with the fans and then something more: a legend, a symbol of everything supporters believe their club stands for. At Blackburn Rovers, there is Simon Garner. Even today, years after he last played for the club, the chant: ‘There’s Only One Simon Garner’ still regularly echoes around Ewood Park.

Quite how a man who never even got a kick in the Premiership could have become the club’s spiritual mascot might seem a bit of a mystery, but all is explained if you ever pick up his autobiography. For in telling his story – Blackburn’s all-time top scorer, a succession of ever-lesser clubs, and a divorce so messy he was sent to prison (where the man-of-the-match award was an ounce of tobacco), he inadvertently reveals why he had such rapport with the crowd.

To the fans, Garner was always one of our own. Even after he’d knocked in a Saturday goal or two and had pride of place on the back of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, he always had time for a laugh, a fag and a drink with them. Or with anyone, for that matter. Newly signed team-mates were liable to be judged on their ability to smoke or drink, and Simon was the man to judge them.

He earned good money (£600 a week at its peak), but not silly money. He lived in the town; he drove a decent car, not something out of a Bond film. He never pretended. No airs and graces off the pitch, and no dives in the box on it. And if Rovers were a goal or two to the bad, and time was ticking on and you had no more fingernails to bite, there was always a chance that Gamer would turn it around by popping a couple in.

But, above all, in the pre-Jack Walker days, the club’s fans knew that if there was a Blackburn occasion, good or ill, then there would be Garner, chest puffed out, doing his level best. He was there with Jim Smith, there when Jim Iley arrived, he played and drank with Howard Kendall, and was with Bobby Saxton’s side when, in a vital game against Wolves, their manager, Tommy Docherty, sat in on the Blackburn team-talk and then calmly stood up saying ‘Don’t worry about our lot; they’re crap’.

He was there for the descent into the Third Division, the climb out of it, and those agonising seasons when, three years in a row, Blackburn reached the play-offs, only to lose.

Even Garners high times had a “Blackburnish” characteristic: a win at Wembley in 1987, but it was only the Full-Members’ Cup final; and as Garner broke the club’s scoring record in 1989 the celebrations had hardly started before news came through of an unfolding disaster across the Pennines at Hillsborough.

Three years later, Garner was still here as King Kenny and Uncle Jack arrived to transform the club. And when Blackburn reached the play-off finals at Wembley, Dalglish made sure the old forward was given one of the three non-playing places on the bench. So there he was, smoking agitatedly through an entire pack as his club reached the Premiership, just like any fan and when, at Blackburn Town Hall, the team were feted on their return, there, of course, was Gamer again, grinning and happy and slightly inebriated. And what did the crowd sing? ‘There’s Only One Simon Garner…’

Garner may not have scored a hatful of premiership goals, won a plethora of international caps, but what he did do was serve our club faithfully for 14 years of his life. He went up and down three divisions with us, and scored a sack full of goals in each of those divisions. His goals got us into the play-offs three years running, and if we’d seized an earlier chance, who knows – he may have scored a hat full in the Premiership.

Probably not the most gifted player ever, or the hardest worker, but second only to Shearer in terms of his greatness in the history of Blackburn Rovers.

In 2007 Garner was, voted the best player in Blackburn’s history by the fans, ahead of the aforementioned Alan Shearer, such is, even today, 15 years after his departure from the Rovers playing staff, the affinity and high regard he is held in by the Blackburn Rovers fans.

Second only to Rovers fans hearts as the late, great “Uncle’ Jack Walker, Rovers favourite son will forever be remembered at Ewood Park. As the chant goes, There’s only one Simon Garner!