Now at the age of 33, Mark Howard’s enjoyed a fine time in professional football. From spells at Arsenal and Sheffield United to Love Street memories with St Mirren, he’s been and done a fair bit.
He’s in the free agent market now though after his most recent spell with Blackpool. Moves have come close to happening since his seaside departure, but nothing has come to fruition quite yet. A player with his experience though will pick something up just fine, the global pandemic making moves to clubs for free agents slightly more complicated than before.
Howard is well aware of that but he’s happy to bide his time and wait for the right move for him to pop up.
“It’s a worrying time but I’ve had to turn down a few offers either through location or finances, contracts, I’m just happy to be patient in this time,” Howard told NTOF. “There’s still an uncertainty but it’s a risk I’m willing to take at that moment until the season fully gets underway.
“I’m open to any offers and ideas. I’ve spoken to so many different teams around the world, it’s such a strange time at the moment. You need to take everything into account and I’m 33 now, I feel I’ve still got a good 5-6 years left in the game. I feel fit and I’ve worked had through the off-period, I’m open to ideas.
“Hopefully the market does get going soon because I think people are waiting for clarity. When fans will be back in, whether there is a salary cap, I think that’s what’s taking teams longer to make decisions. There’s so many players out there but you’ve got to be patient and be fit and ready when the opportunity comes.”
Like pretty much every goalkeeper, it wasn’t the position Howard wanted to play. But he found himself there by default at youth level, turns out he was fairly good at it. A move to Arsenal was one by his skills between the sticks, so the youthful stopper was clearly doing something right.
There were big characters at Arsenal when Howard was present. You had Manuel Almunia for one and the legendary Jens Lehmann was also at the club alongside Howard for a short period. It was a football education that he’ll always be grateful for.
“It was amazing, I always got told to use it as going to the best university,” Howard said. “Arsenal came knocking and I stayed for ten years. I loved every minute of it, probably should have tried to stay a bit longer! I sort of forced myself out the door as much as they let me go, as I was desperate to play proper football.
“When I was in the academy Alex Welsh was a big influence. When I went to play full-time it was Mike Salmon, Jerry Payton was a goalkeeper coach. We had Manuel Almunia and Jens Lehmann, two great models to learn from.
“In training Almunia…