Football Focus

Former Blackburn Rovers striker Joe Garner talks to Carol Wilson about his professional football career that has spanned almost two decades

Joe Garner has added a 12th football club to his football CV in a career that has taken him from Blackburn to Oldham via Carlisle, Nottingham, Glasgow and Ipswich and a few other places in between.

But regardless of where he has been, the striker has always called the Ribble Valley ‘home’.

And the playing fields of High Moor are where it all began.

“I started at Clitheroe Wolves as a young boy and ended up at Blackburn,” recalls Joe.

“The set-up has always been really good. I don’t know how many teams they have now, but it’s been going a long, long time.

“Two of my daughters play for them and my lad has played for Wolves all the way through, so I’ve always had a connection with Clitheroe Wolves.

“There’s been a lot of talent from around the Clitheroe and Ribble Valley area, like the Wharton brothers, Leighton Clarkson and David Dunn a few years ago to name a few.”

And he expects the conveyor belt of talent to continue, particularly with upgraded facilities from when he first got involved with the club around three decades ago.

“The facilities at Clitheroe Wolves now are a lot better, they’ve got the 3G down at Edisford and the pitches up at High Moor are fantastic, which is good for the kids,” he explains.

“There’s a lot of talent there and a heck of a lot of kids. There are two or three teams in each age group for boys and girls and the girls’ football especially has come on. I think there are three teams each year from Under 10s to Under 6s. It’s good to see the girls out there and the boys also have three or four teams each age group.”

Joe, who is married to Sophie and is dad to Maicey (18), Alfie (16), Hattie (10) and Reeva (6), is now juggling his own football career with helping to develop players for the future.

“I’ve helped coach the girls’ under 10s this year and they’re doing all right. It’s a fantastic set-up,” he said.

“But there’s no pressure on my own children to make a career in football. I just enjoy watching them play to be honest and as long as they’re enjoying playing that’s all that matters.”

And enjoyment is the main aim for Joe himself.

Turning 36 this month, he has had to contemplate life after playing professionally. But he is not ready for retirement yet: “I’ve thought about it and I’m going to do my coaching badges and see how I get on,” he says.

“It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing. But I’m putting all my efforts into playing at the minute and I’ll work it out once I’ve finished.

“I want to just play as long as I’m enjoying it and my body’s holding up, and at the minute I feel fine.

“I train every day, don’t really have many days off and I’m still feeling fit and healthy, so as long as that continues then I’ll still be out there.”

In a career that has spanned almost two decades, Joe has celebrated two promotions via the play-offs, first with both boyhood club Preston North End, and last season with Carlisle United.

He is hoping to complete a hat-trick with Oldham Athletic, who suffered the ignominy of becoming the first former Premier League team to be relegated from the Football League two years ago.

They are desperate to return. And Joe, who is a former pupil of Waddington Primary School and Ribblesdale High School, is determined to help them achieve it as quickly as possible.

“I’ve had two promotions in the play-offs and a hat-trick would be nice to round it off,” he adds.

“Hopefully we can get in there and go into the play-offs all guns blazing. It’s a great way to go up.

“The Preston promotion was very special. I used to go and watch Preston as a kid and had a season ticket, so to play there for so many years and get them promoted was a very special thing.

“And the Carlisle one was probably equally as special because they gave me my first chance when I was 17 to go up there and sign for them from Blackburn, so to get them promoted last year and play in both of the play-off games and the final was obviously special.

“Hopefully there is more to come.”



Tedd Walmsley

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