A prison ->
The town of Wycombe, as well as 'exiles' like me, was thrown into numbed amazement late last year when we heard that our former hero 'Super' Simon Garner had been put away for 9 months for contempt of court relating to his divorce case.
We couldn't believe it. The classiest and cleverest player we've ever had, 'The Godfather', the beer-drinking, fag-smoking Sex God, had already been been given away to Woking by an appaling ex-manager - and now he was doing time.
Garns was sent to Kirkham Open Prison near Preston, which must be the 'footballers' prison' because it previously housed such footy legends as Jan Molby and Micky Thomas. He had an immediate impact on the prison footy team, scoring six in a scorching 8-3 win over Fylde Leisure.
A woman smoking a fag
It was nice to know he still had the gift, but as attractive young Wycombe fan Jane said 'how can he be banging them in when he's banged up, when he should be outside banging me'. Fortunately the authorities saw sense, and the Great Man was released just before Christmas.
So who did we adore him so much? Let me explain.
Back in December 1992 we were still a Conference team, and were delighted to draw a big side like WBA in the second round of the FA Cup. After a memorable 2-2 draw we eventually went out unluckily 1-0 in the replay.
The WBA side included a tricky, bustling little forward who gave our defence a lot of bother and clearly got Martin O'Neill (we're not worthy) thinking a little. Martin knew this ex-Blackburn star, their all-time leading scorer and a bigger hero than Shearer among the REAL fans, was not a first-team regular at Albion, and was pretty convinced he could do a good job for us.
That season we were promoted to the league, and eventually Martin got his man. Garns' Wycombe debut came in February 1994 in a thrilling Autoglass tie at Fulham, which we eventually won on penalties. Some of us were a bit puzzled because from where we were sitting it was hard to tell Garns and Tim 'Bonnie' Langford apart - they looked and played fairly similar, and somebody near me suggested that Bonnie had brought his Dad along to play.
It wasn't long before we realised what a star we had in our midst. Despite his age and his reputation for enjoying 'a cigarette and a couple of halves of lager', Garns was evidently a class above everyone else in the third division. He could see things other players couldn't, he could do things other players couldn't, and he was always looking to create something. He also had that indefinable sytle that only a few players possess. On one occasion I brought a complete non-football person to a match, and after the game she said 'I liked that Number 10 bloke, he looked shifty.'
Garns played a big part in getting us promoted in our first season in the league, including scoring in each round of the play-offs. The following season he scored the league's first goal, a cracker after about a minute at home to Cambridge. Unfortunately I missed that one because I was in hospital after falling down some steps while carrying my bike after a mad evening on Slivovice.
Along with fellow oldie Cyrille Regis, he gave us a lot of fun that season. He scored the first ever goal at Huddersfield's swanky new stadium, giving us a 1-0 win to spoil their opening party, and later repeated the dose when they came to our place, out-thinking two gormless defenders to grab a wonderful winner. My personal favourite 'Garns Moment' happened in our first ever match with local scummers Oxford. Naturally we won, as we did in three out of four games against them, and the Great Man tucked away a lovely free kick to put us 2-0 up. As he ran back to our half celebrating with his team-mates, they happened to run past lanky Oxford oaf Moody who was warming up on the touchline. Going past him, Garns couldn't resist signalling to him that we were two goals up.
I suppose all good things come to an end, and when Martin O'Neill left the writing was on the wall. It was clear that players with more personality and a bigger name than the new manager would not be around for long, and sure enough Cyrille went off to Chester while Garns spent most of his time on the bench - and, according to reports on teletext, had been warned to cut down on booze and fags if he wanted to get in the team again. It was not much of a surprise when The Best Player We've Ever Had went to Woking on a free, while The Worst Manager We've Ever Had took a disjointed, disspirited, unwatchable team straight to the bottom of the second division. Early this season we went down to watch Garns and Tommo at Woking rather travel to some forlorn away disaster.
Anyway, here's to Super Simon Garner being a free man again. Cheers mate, you've made a lot of supporters very happy over the years.
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