PAINT is splattered up Simon Garner’s fleece as he reminisces about his former life as a lethal goal-scorer.
There was the hat-trick hit at Ewood Park in 1989 when he became Blackburn’s all-time leading scorer, and the memorable five he pummelled past Derby six years prior.
Blackburn’s all-time top-scorer Simon Garner is now a painter and decorator[/caption]
But Garner, inducted into Rovers’ Hall of Fame alongside Alan Shearer last week, got his personal best a few years later.. as an inmate at Kirkham open prison.
“I had a little run-in with the law,” the former striker, 59, told SunSport.
In 1996, Garner was sentenced to nine months in prison for contempt of court during a “messy” divorce with his first wife, but only ended up serving four weeks.
“You read people saying open prisons are an easy thing but, believe me, they are not,” he explains.
Garner scored 192 goals for Rovers in 14 years at Ewood Park[/caption]
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“It was an open prison in the North West and, luckily for me, no matter what I did during the day, whether it was going to do work or for meals, I always had a minder.
“I was told there were people in there who might like to have a go at me because of playing for Blackburn.
“We did have a football team, though. Obviously all the games were at home – we never got to play away. I only played in one game in prison and scored all six.”
Garner can afford to laugh about it now, 23 years on, as he sits in the front seat of his estate car having finished another day in his latest profession.
The Lancashire lad set up home in the leafy village of Cookham, in Berkshire, where his business as a painter and decorator is based.
Garner’s route from Ewood Park to painter in Berkshire was far from straight forward[/caption]
Garner went to prison for four weeks for contempt of court – but even there he continued scoring goals[/caption]
His journey here was far from straightforward having worked as a postman after managing council houses for Wycombe Wanderer’s former owner Steve Hayes.
After 14 years at Ewood Park, Garner spent two seasons with West Brom before ending his career at Wycombe.
“It was a big wrench to leave Blackburn,” he said. “Kenny Dalglish was manager at the time. He’d signed three or four strikers and was honest enough to say I wouldn’t get a game.
“Luckily, we’d had Ossy Ardiles on loan a few years before and he’d gone to West Brom as manager. I went to West Brom and had a great time.
Garner left Ewood Park a year after Kenny Dalglish took over[/caption]
Garner’s scoring record still stands today – but he admits an injury to Alan Shearer helped that[/caption]
“We didn’t know how to defend: if the opposition scored three, we scored four.”
Ardiles moved on to Tottenham and Garner got a call from Martin O’Neill at Wycombe who had been promoted to the Football League.
“I had a great time at both clubs and Wycombe was a special place to finish my career.”
Garner made some useful friends at Adams Park.
While sat in his prison cell, he received a letter from Hayes offering him a position when he was released.
“Luckily I took that job,” he said. “It was helping people buy their council houses, but I only did it for a short while.
Garner spent two years at West Brom under Ossy Ardiles[/caption]
Garner then finished his career with Wycombe Wanderers[/caption]
“There was a lot of travelling. We could be in Dorset one night and East Anglia the next day. I was still playing football at Wieldstone and couldn’t fit in the training.”
Becoming a postie seemed to be more appealing. “But I gave it up after three months because the early mornings killed me. I had to be up at 5am.
“That was painful, especially on Saturdays after a night out on the Friday.
“I was lucky because I didn’t really get recognised much and I made sure no dogs got near me.”
Garner was given an offer from “a mate down the pub” to work for his painting and decorating business.
“I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do,” the former striker recalls. “Fortunately, this guy gave me the job, taught me the ropes, and after eight months I went on my own.
Garner’s new profession means he can still do punditry work on Blackburn games[/caption]
Garner has a new record: he hasn’t spilt a tin of paint in 15 years[/caption]
“It’s been 15 years now and it works perfectly for me because I can choose when I work.
“This Wednesday I’ll finish early because Blackburn are playing and I do some work for local radio for games in the south.”
Garner’s voice remains relevant at Ewood Park as he retains the title of all-time scorer.
But the Rovers icon has a new record: “I may still get covered in paint but – touch wood – I’ve never spilt a tin in 15 years.