Joe Garner racked up 12 yellow cards last season. Which for Rangers’ newest recruit proved double his goals tally as Preston North End consolidated their position in the Championship after stepping up with an up and at ’em style.
In a peripatetic career that began at Blackburn Rovers and has included spells with Carlisle United, Huddersfield Town, Scunthorpe and Nottingham Forest, the £1.7 million addition to the Ibrox frontline has bagged 93 goals... and 53 bookings.
Does that suggest he is something of a bad boy, the 28-year-old was asked the other day – or simply misunderstood by officialdom?
“Misunderstood could be the word,” Garner smiled. “The way we played last year at Preston was part of it. In League One we had a lot of the ball and created a lot of chances. Coming up into the Championship as the promoted team we had our own style of play to stay in there. We finished 11th in the league so it was a good year for us all. The gaffer had a way of setting up, and that was his way of playing.”
Yet Garner doesn’t pretend that he was an attacking aesthete forced to become a no-nonsense artisan last year. By reputation, he is a player that doesn’t hold back.
He is likely to be well suited to the hustle and bustle of Scottish football then. A domain he should experience for the first time tonight as Rangers take on a Kilmarnock managed by Lee Clark, under whom he played as a loanee with Huddersfield six years ago.
Garner believes that “most definitely” it is important to be aggressive in how to operate. “I give as much as I get and I look forward to that,” said the 28-year-old.
Garner has plenty to look forward to following a move that he accepts places him with the biggest club of his career, and represents a step up from the English second tier. “The intensity the lads train at is second to none,” he said. “The backroom staff put a helluva lot of work into the training sessions, never mind the games. Through speaking to the gaffer and with the way he set ups up you can see everybody goes out at the weekend knowing their jobs, and what he wants from them. No stone is left unturned.”
The fact Garner arrives as Rangers’ most expensive purchase in six years means there will be an expectation on him to turn heads with his scoring form pretty instantly. He could have the perfect opportunity to to do just that courtesy of the fixture list throwing up a derby at Celtic Park in a fortnight’s time.
“Since Rangers’ interest came out, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing with people asking for tickets. There is a big buzz about the city over the game and it’s a worldwide fixture really. I’m buzzing to be part of it. I have never been to one but I did watch a few on TV. I’ve heard about the atmosphere and I just want to embrace it.
“Will my style suit the derby? We’ll soon see. It’s a massive game and all the lads in there are looking forward to it but we have Kilmarnock first and the concentration is going on that at the minute.”
Garner certainly doesn’t lack confidence. His team-mate Harry Forrester said he could be a “fox in the box” for Mark Warburton’s men as he recalled the striker’s 27-goal haul in League One two seasons ago. He is content with the label.
“I can maybe something like that. We have a lot of talented players and we have a lot of the ball,” he said. “The team creates a lot of chances and I hope I can get in the box and get a few goals. I spoke to the gaffer and he knows my strengths and weaknesses. It’s down to him really. The front three at Rangers rotate and move about, and the gaffer will know what’s best. I’ve trained this week and the coaches and fitness staff will see what’s best for Kilmarnock and I’ll just roll with it.”
Seven years ago, when he was being farmed out by Blackburn, Garner rolled up to Tannadice, to be shown around the club by Craig Levein ahead of an agreed loan switch... which subsequently didn’t happen.
“I was really close to signing. I walked round Dundee United’s ground,” he said. “I had a pal who had driven me up, and I ended up getting in the car and going down the road again to sign for Carlisle.
“My old youth manager Eric Kinder was at that club and he did all he could to get me there – and did that. Was Craig Levein happy with me? It’s a long story.”