BRIAN Howard has no intention to renege on his retirement announcement last month.

That’s despite the former Barnsley and Sheffield United man dusting off his boots to turn out for Wessex League outfit Alresford Town just over a week ago, writes PAUL McNAMARA.

Howard called time on his stellar career following a stint with National League side Eastleigh at the back end of last term.

Nevertheless, the 32 year-old didn’t need a great deal of persuading to turn out alongside his brother, John, and cousin, John Mulhern, for their team’s meeting with Sydenhams leaders Salisbury.

"I’ve known the manager (Martin Beck) for years," Howard explained.

"They had a load of injuries and suspensions, so Martin asked me what I was doing on Friday (September 11th) night – and if I could make up the numbers."

 The midfielder confessed that his first ten minutes of action in more than three months felt "more like 180 minutes," but he soon found that he was back in the swing of things.

"It was OK,” said Howard. "I hadn’t done anything since playing against Grimsby (in the second-leg of Eastleigh’s National League play-off defeat in May), but I really enjoyed getting out there again. It was good to feel that competitive edge."

Howard’s Alresford team became the latest victims of Salisbury’s fine form, going down 6-0 to Steve Claridge’s men, in front of a bumper 676 crowd.

The result of Howard’s return game, however, is not the reason why it could be some time before Beck is able to call on his star signing again. The player who struck a dramatic late winner for Barnsley in an FA Cup tie at Liverpool in 2008 is now totally immersed in his life post-football.

As such, Howard is comfortable with his decision to end his playing days, reflecting: "I felt it was time. I was playing out of the Football League for the first time earlier this year, and I started last season down in League Two.

"I’d dropped that low in quite a short space of time. It was a shock to the system. It didn’t suit me. I’d always wanted the chance to play for Eastleigh – and if we could have gone up it would have been a fairytale to end on.

"But I didn’t want to drag it out any more and then end up hating the game. I want people to remember me for what I was, not as someone who hung around too long."

Howard admits that his time with Eastleigh was “difficult,” but he has only good words for the club.

"I was used to playing in a certain way. It was just hard getting on the ball in games - then sometimes I was finding myself on the bench and thinking 'what am I doing here?'.

"They are a great bunch of lads, though, and I get on great with the manager. I really hope they can go the extra mile and get up into the league this year."

Howard is now heavily involved with MTA Live, a company he was involved in launching, and which trades stocks, shares and forex, but he is not lost to football - far from it.

As he speaks, the former England under-20 international is London bound, due to watch the first of two games over the weekend in the capital.  It is part of his role working in personal sports management, a job description that Howard prefers to the ‘dark’ term, agent.

With roughly 30 players, aged between 16 and 25 and from across all levels of the game, under his watchful eye, Howard is on-hand to lend his experience, guiding his charges on and off the field.

Talking enthusiastically about his new assignment, Howard says: "I go to a lot of games to watch all the boys (that he manages). 

"I can watch them specifically, and pick up on little things that their managers won’t see.  A manager has got to worry about his entire team, whereas I can identify what those managers are missing, and pass that on to the boys.

"I can see what they’re doing wrong; what they need to do to keep moving in the right direction."

Another talented young footballer to benefit from Howard’s wisdom, garnered across 12 years in the professional game, is Matt Targett.

The Southampton defender is Howard’s cousin and the older man is full of praise for how Targett has adapted to top-flight football at St Mary’s.


"He had a tough start this season,’" said Howard, "but he’s shown a lot of character to come back and perform extremely well.

"‘Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw are injured – and so is Ryan Bertrand at Saints.  There are opportunities opening up for club and country if he keeps working hard and progressing."

A former Southampton youngster himself, Howard is always available if Targett is after any advice. 

"I try to offer family support, first and foremost, but I’m always there if he needs me, Howard says of his relationship with the Saints left-back.

Indeed, hours before this interview, Howard, with typical efficiency, has been finalising his Christmas dinner plans. 

He will be in the Targett household for a meal that the ex-footballer is already relishing.  It will be the first time for many a year that Howard’s festive celebrations won’t be inhibited by the need to prepare for a Boxing Day fixture.

Watching football is more Brian Howard’s thing now, but don’t be surprised if he succumbs to the lure of the Friday night lights, once more, before the season is out.