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Joe Garner – Pride of Preston

The Boot Room

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Over the last five years, there hasn’t been a great deal for Preston fans to shout about. A winding-up order, a relegation, the farcical Graham Westley era and another play-off defeat to Rotherham all came within four seasons.

That all changed just a month ago, as manager Simon Grayson led his side from the despair of missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season, to the ecstacy of ending the famous play-off course with a 4-0 win over Swindon Town at Wembley.

Now back in the Championship for the first time since relegation in 2011, Preston will be hoping to strengthen their squad and establish themselves as a Championship club once again – but have so far focused on keeping the promotion-winning side intact.

The likes of Tom Clarke, Paul Huntington, John Welsh and Chris Humphrey have all signed new contracts with the club, whilst Paul Gallagher and Jermaine Beckford have signed permanently following successful loan spells.

Yet, the most important deal so far came last week, as striker Joe Garner agreed a new three-year extension to stay with North End for the foreseeable future.

The 27-year-old has not only established himself as one of the deadliest strikers in the Football League having hit 51 goals in 104 games for Preston, but has become a Deepdale hero, writing himself into folklore over the last two-and-a-half years.

Garner may have been born in Blackburn, but he grew up supporting Preston – a fact which hasn’t gone unnoticed during his time with the club. With the modern game permeated by an obsession with money, it’s natural for fans to feel detached from their club as they watch men deemed as mercenaries play with only their next move on their mind.

But in the case of Garner, supporters are able to watch a player simply living his dream of playing for the club he supports. Garner’s passion is infectious, and his all-action displays have reignited a team and a fanbase which had struggled for momentum since relegation, providing never-ending commitment to the cause and persistently rallying fans, as he did at Wembley…even though Preston were already 4-0 up.

Preston fans know that the Garner situation is a rare one, and one they may not see for some time. Few players get the chance to become a hero at their boyhood club in the modern era, but that’s certainly what Garner has been able to do in just over two years at Preston.

Now, just one year after penning a two-year extension, Garner has once again tied his future to Preston, extending his contract until 2018 – a deal which will take him into his 30’s. Having scored so many goals for Preston, Garner could have easily looked for a move away this summer, with no shortage of suitors looking at the possibility of luring him away from his boyhood club. Instead, Garner has made it clear that he is going nowhere, and will be staying with North End as they return to the Championship.

The deal also gives Garner a chance to finally prove himself in the second tier. Disappointing spells with Nottingham Forest and Watford have made many believe that Garner is a League One-level striker who will now struggle to score goals in the Championship.

However, now in a team which is virtually built around him, Garner has flourished, and will be expected to continue his blossoming partnership with Jermaine Beckford next season. The duo hit a combined 45 goals for North End last season, and if the can even manage half of that total in the Championship, their new contracts will be money well spent.

The funny thing about Garner’s city-wide hero status in Preston is that it hasn’t always been this way. Fans actually derided Garner having failed to score in his first few months at Deepdale, with questions over his future after just six months at the club. With the likes of Kevin Davies, Iain Hume and Stuart Beavon in the ranks, Garner was considered to be the fourth choice striker at Deepdale heading into the 2013/14 season, with many supporters suggesting that he had no future at North End.

Now, the news of his new contract has been met with delight and celebration, with fans no longer having to live with the fear and dread of losing their favourite player of recent years. Garner’s goalscoring exploits and love for the club have certainly won fans over, arguably to the point where he can now be considered as the symbol of Preston’s revival under Simon Grayson – and long may it continue.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Derby County

Sam Winnall to Stoke looks inevitable after Gary Rowett arrival

Josh Kerr

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Sam Winnall
Photo: Getty Images

Gary Rowett’s move to Stoke City from Derby County has added further fuel to the fire regarding Sam Winnall’s future and a potential move to Staffordshire for the new season.

The two have previously been together during their time at Burton Albion, and Rowett opted to bring the 27-year-old to Pride Park on a loan deal this season.

Winnall scored four goals in 16 Championship games for Sheffield Wednesday after arriving at Hillsborough in January 2017 from local rivals Barnsley.

He was underwhelming for the Owls initially and hence the club decided to loan him to his former manager.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Nonetheless, he has enjoyed some success at Derby this season, winning the club’s Goal of the Season award for his memorable strike against Ipswich Town back in December.

Injury has restricted Winnall to just six Championship starts but despite his time spent on the sidelines, the fans have enjoyed the Englishman’s time at Pride Park and are crying out for him to stay.

Nonetheless, Rowett’s move to Stoke was the icing on the cake for Wednesday supporters and unsurprisingly talk of a switch to the Bet365 Stadium has surfaced on social media.

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Leeds United

Leeds United should bring in free agent Nick Townsend

The former Barnsley goalkeeper has worked under Leeds United boss Paul Heckingbottom previously.

Mathew Coull

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Leeds United are said to be in the hunt for a new goalkeeper this summer. Last summer’s recruits Felix Wiedwald and Andy Lonergan both proved unsuccessful and could find themselves leaving this summer. The former is expected to return to Germany whilst the latter was offered to Sunderland in the winter but pulled the plug on the deal.

At the moment, youngster Bailey Peacock-Farrell is the number one stopper at Leeds and he has performed valiantly since being given the role.

But new recruits are expected this summer, with the likes of Angus Gunn and David Stockdale already being mentioned.

Leeds should, however, look closer to home and bring in Nick Townsend this summer.

Many Leeds fans will now be shouting who? The 23-year-old stopper is currently a free agent, with his contract at Barnsley being terminated this summer.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

He joined Barnsley from Birmingham City in 2015 and went on to play 18 games for the club in three seasons, including some under the guidance of current Leeds boss Paul Heckingbottom.

Heckingbottom was a big fan of Townsend’s, who he trusted as his main back-up stopper during his time at Oakwell. Townsend, who made the news after injuring his finger in a training ground bust-up with a team-mate earlier this year, is now on the hunt for a new challenge.

Leeds could be the perfect location. Of course, Townsend should not be considered a number one goalie. But if Leeds are to lose both Wiedwald and Lonergan this summer then they may need two new keepers in the door.

Townsend is a reliable option when called upon and one who Heckingbottom knows well and can trust.

Bringing him into the Leeds squad would be a fine piece of business as it would certainly strengthen what is a weak area of the Leeds United first-team.

It is not a deal that will blow you away, but bringing in Townsend would be a smart piece of business for Leeds United.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers

Giorgian de Arrascaeta signing would represent transfer of intent from Wolves

Josh Kerr

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Photo: getty Images

According to Fox Sports Brazil, Wolverhampton Wanderers are weighing up a bid for World Cup bound-midfielder Giorgian de Arrascaeta.

The Uruguay international, an attacking midfielder with 13 caps for his national side, is attracting the attention of many European sides who are hoping to lure him away from the Brazilian league ahead of the summer World Cup.

Wolves fans will be delighted to see themselves linked with another established name in world football and will look to the success of star man Ruben Neves as inspiration for the move.

The former Porto star was a revelation at Wolves this season, scoring six goals along the way, and was nominated for both the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Season in the Championship. Neves’s success will give fans every bit of hope that De Arrascaeta would have a similar fate should he sign for the high-achieving club.

The current Cruzeiro player has spent the last three seasons playing in Brazil’s top flight, making 73 appearances and scoring 16 goals, after making the move from Defensor Sporting in Uruguay.

(Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

The midfielder’s attacking flair could match that of Diego Jota, whose permanent deal from at Molineux, from Atletico Madrid, hasn’t yet been confirmed.

He would be the perfect addition for the Midlands outfit as they look to restablish themselves in England’s top-flight and ensure their continued Premier League status.

It is important that the deal gets done quickly as De Arrascaeta will soon be turning his attention to the World Cup and interest in his services is only likely to increase.

He signed a contract extension in February which runs until 2021, but the luxury of the Premier League may be enough to tempt the young Uruguayan to the Championship winners this summer.

If he signs, he would prove another useful attacking option, especially if Jota remains at the club.

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