Rovers’ Greatest Heroes: Simon Garner

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Rovers’ all-time leading goalscorer was Boston born-and-bred and even played for his hometown club before joining Rovers as an apprentice.

Little did anybody know the impact he would have at Ewood when Garner made his debut at Newcastle United in a Second Division fixture in 1978, though he didn’t score that day he did get eight goals in a side that succumbed to relegation that season.

Steadily establishing himself in the team over the next few years, it wasn’t until the 1982/83 season that Garner really made his mark, scoring 22 goals in 41 games as Rovers pushed for promotion into the top division.

For the next decade, he plundered goals in the Second Division, like a 1980s Jordan Rhodes, as Rovers continually tried and tried again to gain promotion. Garner got double figures in league goals until the 1990/91 season, and during this period, Rovers qualified for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons whilst Garner was leading the line but we were just unable to jump that final hurdle.

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Until, of course, Garner’s final season in Blue and White under Kenny Dalglish when he scored five league goals to help us into the playoffs that eventually saw the club promoted to the inaugural Premier League season.

It was the Jack Walker era that saw the end of Garner’s Rovers career as forward players such as David Speedie, Mike Newell and, subsequently, Alan Shearer, came in to move the club on to the next level. If the club had slightly more investment in the 1980s, I’m certain that Garner was good enough to fire us into the top league, and it would have been great to see how well he would have fared there.

Garner moved on to help West Bromwich Albion win promotion from the third tier in the 92/93 season and then, as his beloved Rovers were winning the Premier League title, Garner was plying his trade for Wycombe Wanderers, eventually retiring at the end of the 95/96 season.

He left Rovers as our all-time leading goalscorer, scoring 194 goals (168 in the league) in 565 appearances (474 league), including nine consecutive seasons scoring double-figure amounts of goals in the league.

As strange as it may sound to modern fans, even a player of Simon Garner’s ability and record and despite the fact he played into the 1990s, he didn’t earn a lot of money through football and ended up finding work as in mortgages, as a postman (lasted a week, he hated it!) and eventually a painter and decorator, as well as writing a column in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph as a Rovers expert for a number of years.

Garner off-the-field could be quite the character. It was rumoured for many years that Garner was behind the infamous plane that flew over Turf Moor in the early 90s when Burnley failed in a playoff promotion bid, trailing behind a message saying, “Staying down forever. Ha ha ha. Love Rovers”. I have it on good authority from questions asked while researching this piece that this is not the case and in fact, a car dealer in Blackburn was the person most responsible…but any confirmation or alternative theories are gladly listened to and received!

What was it like to watch him live? 

David Rewaj, Blackburn End season ticket holder since the early 1980s has his say on Garner:

“He was just a brilliant player, always so dangerous in front of goal. If it were up to me then I would have said ‘Just have one game [in the Premier League] as a thank you, but that’s just me. Without him, we wouldn’t have been in that position”.

His Legendary Moment

Rewaj, again: “I remember one game that I went to, against Derby County down Ewood, he got five goals in that game. Like I said, he was a brilliant player”.

It was Garner’s second strike (of three) against Manchester City in a 4-0 win in the Second Division on April 15th, 1989 that ensured his name would go down in Rovers’ history and made him a legend. There is footage around of that strike but here is Garner’s (brief) description of it in his own words:

“It was a break from the left and a left-foot shot into the top corner of the net. I looked very young as well!”

His Legacy

For someone who wasn’t a local lad, Garner endeared himself to the Ewood faithful, not just because of the volume of goals he scored, but also because of the way he worked his socks off for the Blue and White halves. To this day, as long as a striker really puts it in for the team, even if they don’t score the number of goals we would like, the Ewood crowd will pull for them, because they remember the likes of Garner and the way he played for us over a decade.

Thanks for reading.

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