|view Howard's match-by-match record
An England under-20 international midfielder, Howard signed from Southampton on a free transfer during the 2003/2004 pre-season, despite receiving an offer from Chelsea for his services. He made his debut as a substitute in the 3-2 defeat versus Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day of the season.
It took Howard a few months to break into the first team on a regular basis, but with a switch to a 4-4-2 formation, Howard slotted in on the left side of midfield, providing width, skill and creativity, along with a wicked set piece delivery - Howard hit the woodwork on more than one occasion during the season from the corner quadrant. Throughout the season, he was also utilised in a central midfield role, though he didn't seem to be as effective in this position.
A sending off for violent conduct, late in the game against Grimsby in March 2004, saw Howard lose his place in the side through suspension, manager Andy King seeming to prefer the more defensive David Duke during the end of season run-in. Despite being quoted as being close to a new two-year deal in December, it took him to the end of the season to sign a new contract, by which time only a year's deal was on the table - nevertheless, Howard signed.
When he returned the following season, Howard seemed to be suffering from an expanding waistline - and his pace, which wasn't the quickest at the best of times, had noticeably slowed. He did however achieve what he hadn't quite done the previous season, in scoring direct from a corner in an FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday. Manager Andy King began to utilise him more and more in the centre - sometimes on the left of a three man midfield, but when the left-sided Lee Holmes arrived on loan from Derby, Howard also played in the middle in a 4-4-2. It was a role he didn't really have the necessary bite or tackling skills for - but both Howard and King commented that they considered it to be his best position - though when Grant Smith emerged into the first team in January, after being substituted at Sheffield Wednesday, Howard found his role restricted to that of a substitute. He made just two more starts for the club, in consecutive 0-0 draws with Bristol City and Hull in April - before the discovery of a broken metartarsal bone, an injury that was actually sustained before the Bristol game, put an end to his season.
Howard's departure from the club was acrimonious - after original reports suggested he had been offered an extension to his contract on reduced terms, it eventually emerged that no deal was offered - instead, an offer was dependent on Smith's refusal to sign a new deal. Whilst Smith was stalling over his deal, Bournemouth and Barnsley were both showing interest in Howard - and with his home and family on the south coast, Bournemouth was touted as his most likely destination. However, shortly after Smith signed for Bristol City, Howard surprisingly signed for Barnsley - and he took a parting swipe at Swindon, stating that even if they had have offered the same deal as the Yorkshire club, he would still have left. His comment was dismissed as irrelevant by the Town's chief executive Sandy Gray, who pointed out that he hadn't been offered a deal in the first place!
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