STEVE Howard is unlikely to feature at Rochdale tomorrow – but Colin Cooper hopes he can become a “talisman” for Hartlepool United this season.
The striker declared his intention to remain at the club this week bringing to a close the uncertainty surrounding his future.
Howard scored just three times for Pools last season and finished the campaign on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.
But the 37-year-old will now take on an integral role as Cooper leads his charges into the new season.
“We’ve had conversations with Steve and he’s decided that he wants to stay and try to alter people’s perceptions of how things went last season,” the boss explained to SportMail.
“He was very honest and said that he wanted to explore some options.
“But I would like to think that we’ve turned him the way we’re doing things.
“He’s really bought into it.
“He wants to give the fans something back.
“He might be 37 but someone of Steve’s ability can be a real asset.
“The conversation that I had with him convinced me that he wants to finish on a high and readdress some of the things which have happened.
“Steve could become a focal point for us, a talisman.
“If I’m playing in League Two and I see his name on the team-sheet then I’m scared.”
Howard is, however, likely to remain at home in the North-East when the squad ventures to Spotland for the League Two curtain-raiser.
“He’s been working hard but his pre-season has been sporadic,” Cooper went on.
“He’s a little bit behind the rest of them.
“The quicker we get him into as good a shape as possible the better.
“But at 37 he probably doesn’t need to be as fit as a Luke James or Brad Walker.”
Howard apart, Cooper has no fitness concerns heading into Rochdale and hopes to have completed the loan deal of Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess in time for the trip to Greater Manchester.
POOLS (probable): Flinders; Austin, Baldwin, Collins, Hartley; Franks, Walker, Sweeney, Compton; Monkhouse; James. Subs: Rafferty, Holden, Richards, Poole, Rodney, Walton, Burgess