FORMER Hartlepool United striker and summer transfer target Steve Howard is being chased by League One rivals Notts County.
Neale Cooper has made no secret of his desire to bring a powerhouse frontman to Victoria Park and SportMail understands that Howard – who is out of contract at Leicester City – is among a list of names drawn up by the Pools boss.
The 36-year-old certainly fits the bill for the type of centre-forward Cooper is looking to spearhead his attack next season, especially given the pace his offensive line already boasts in the form of James Poole and Luke James, not to mention the potential return of livewire Sunderland loanee Ryan Noble.
But Howard will have no shortage of League One suitors and Keith Curle’s Magpies – who missed out on the play-offs by virtue of goal difference – are the first to play their hand.
“I’ve not had the opportunity to meet Stevie yet,” said Curle.
“I would like to speak to him though to find out if our paths could cross.
“If we get the opportunity to sit down together I will try to sell him my vision for the future of this club and see if that ties in with his ambitions.”
Curle, like Cooper, will have to operate within the confines of a strict wage budget this summer, and the former Manchester City defender went on: “I won’t even talk to players that we’ve not got a chance of signing.
“Hopefully, we are an attractive club because we did well last season and are ambitious.
“We’re not going to break the bank to sign players though.
“We will offer what we can afford and will offer bonuses so if players do well, they will be rewarded.”
Howard began his career with Pools in 1995 and, over four years, scored 32 times in 162 outings.
A prolific spell at Luton Town followed before a £1m move to Derby County in 2006.
Another seven-figure transfer fee (£1.5m) took Howard to Leicester City in 2008 and he helped them to promotion from League One.
Howard, though, was restricted to just 14 league appearances for the Foxes this term and he is now free to talk to other clubs.
The Durham-born star is a long-time friend of Pools coach Micky Barron and that could yet play a part in his decision should Cooper make a move.
Howard is back in the North-East later this month for an event at former club Tow Law Town on May 26.