The £1.5m deal for the Preston North End striker that is expected to be rubber stamped imminently would represent the most outlayed on a player to come to Ibrox since the pre-liquidation days when £4m was forked out for Nikica Jelavic six years ago. Manager Mark Warburton’s tenth signing of the summer would also be the most expensive deal of his near four seasons in frontline coaching. All of which says one thing to Rangers midfielder Andy Halliday.
“A fee of £1.5 million is a lot of money compared to what we’ve spent on the rest of the team,” the 24-year-old said. “With the eight or nine players we’d signed we could only have spent around £250,000 so it’s certainly a statement of intent. The gaffer says we need that bit of quality to the squad. He’s obviously gone into the market [to get that]. The gaffer obviously knows what his budget is. It’s going to be hard to bring in players of the right quality, who fit our style of play. If the gaffer sees a good player and has the budget to do it then he’s going to try and get them in.”
Halliday has experience of playing against the 28-year-old Garner. The forward scored in a defeat for his team against Halliday’s Bradford City in a 2014-15 season in which he bagged 27 goals to propel Preston into the Championship, where his strike rate was reduced to six goals in 44 appearances last season.
“Joe played for a good Preston Team in League One who were obviously promoted that year. He scored a lot of goals. He’s got a lot of attributes. He was a very dangerous striker in that league. Hopefully we can get it over the line. I think we’d potentially be getting a good player.”
And one more capable of puncturing Scottish defences, Halliday is convinced. He believes Garner has “similar attributes” to Rangers’ current principal goal source Martyn Waghorn, presently recovering from a hamstring problem after netting five times in four outings already this campaign. “Like Waggy he’s not the biggest but he can certainly put himself about. They’re aggressive. He’s scored a lot of goals in League One. Hopefully he can replicate that here.”
Competition for places has been ramped up at Ibrox over the summer and Halliday appears relieved he faces a tougher job to retain first-pick status. So far he has proved up to that task. “It’s healthy. We probably lacked competition all over the pitch last year,” he said. “We probably didn’t have that last year. We didn’t have the strength of numbers to fill in. Good players welcome other good players. It’s a statement of intent. We’ve signed a lot of good ones so far and hopefully we can get the two more the gaffer wants.
“The squad is still quite lean but the demands are a lot higher in this league so we had to add quality and strength in numbers. Look at the Celtic game and the cup final – we could only register five people on the bench and two of them are young boys. It’s not ideal going into those type of games. It meant there was quite a lot of pressure on the boys who played in the majority of games. It’s going to be shared now. The boys probably know they’ll all have a spell on the bench now but we’re all pulling towards the one goal – to try and win the league at the end of the season. The players won’t sulk or moan if they’re on the bench.”