KELLY’S EYE ON HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Thanks for the memories Steve Howard

TWO SHARP FOR BLADES: Steve Howard and John Hughes shake hands at the end of the 3-2 win over Sheffield United where Howard scored twice. Picture by FRANK REID
TWO SHARP FOR BLADES: Steve Howard and John Hughes shake hands at the end of the 3-2 win over Sheffield United where Howard scored twice. Picture by FRANK REID

DO you have a favourite Hartlepool United goal?

I am sure you have one or two gems that stick out.

Brian Honour at Maidstone on the 1991 promotion run was one of my favourites.

In the more recent times you can’t go far wrong than two during the Neale Cooper era.

There was Hugh Robertson’s hammer against Luton Town one Tuesday night at Victoria Park and Adam Boyd’s sensational third against Sheff Wed on a Friday night monsoon on 2005.

Kelly has only seen a fraction of the goals you people have already seen, but one of my fave ever goals came from the boot of Steve Howard.

The venue was Prenton Park, Tranmere the opponents in the Coca Cola Cup in August 1997.

Rovers could have had Schmeichel, Seaman or Shilton in goal that night - or all three at the same time – no keeper on this planet would have kept out his thunderbolt.

Kelly still remembers it as though it was yesterday, Joe Allon winning the ball which arrived wide left and Howard volleyed from somewhere between 30 and 35 yards past Danny Coyne.

Screamer does not begin to describe it.

It was so good I ended up dreaming about it that night.

The trouble was I was driving at the time on the A1 in North Yorkshire and almost killed my colleague and, until that point, friend, Ian Monaghan.

That wonder goal from Howard was one of 27 goals the powerful Durham striker scored in his first spell at Pools which numbered almost 150 games.

He did well enough but it was a bit of a transitional period for Pools as they moved from the post Garry Gibson years into the IOR era.

But if Howard’s first spell coincided with a few testing times at the Vic it was nothing compared to his second coming.

When I heard whispers he was joining, this reporter was very excited.

Yes, at 36 he had a few miles on the clock but he looked a great signing, given his physique, experience and the fact he was still giving Championship defences a few uncomfortable moments.

With talented young fellas around him it looked as good as a Nigella Lawson recipe.

Sadly it did not work out like that.

Pools played quite dreadfully as a team and Howard struggled to rise above the mediocrity.

The one bright spot came during the festive period of 2012 when Pools won 3-2 at Sheffield United in the top v bottom clash at Bramall Lane.

The Blades were 1-2 to win and were celebrating their centenary at Bramall Lane, but Pools upset the odds and the party.

Howard was the hero with two goals but that day was the was the exception rather than the rule.

He finished last season on loan in the Championship, ironically back in Sheffield, but in the blue and white half of the steel city.

After the success of his stunt with Wednesday, there was conjecture (is that the right word? Or is it an irritating eye condition?) Owls boss Dave Jones might sign him.

He didn’t and Howard openly admitted he did not fancy playing in League Two with Pools, who had also sacked his friend, Micky Barron.

Howard stayed, trained hard and did feature in the squad, but the times remained difficult.

Sadly his final appearance was not one to savour.

He was sent off in the dying, controversial minutes of a 3-1 home defeat to Oxford United.

After returning from a three-match suspension, Pools were winning and he could not break back into the match-day squad.

Howard’s best days came away from Hartlepool, scoring 159 times if my maths is correct, from 508 games with Northampton, Luton, Derby and Leicester.

He deserves saluting for a tremendous career, including his efforts with Pools.

And that goal was something else!