STEVE Howard will enjoy his second home debut for Hartlepool United tonight – against the team he just loves to hate.
The big Geordie makes no secret of his passion for his hometown club, Newcastle United.
And with that loyalty comes the rivalry of North-East neighbours Sunderland, the visitors to Victoria Park this evening.
The prospect of the fixture has captured Howard’s imagination ever since the minute he returned to the Vic earlier this month.
And the 36-year-old told SportMail today: “I’m buzzing that this is my first game back at the Vic.
“I didn’t realise until I signed, but since then I’ve been looking forward to it for obvious reasons.
“I’ve played against them a few times and loved it every time.
“It has all the makings of a good night and I know they’ll be bringing a fair few fans down with them.
“I hope our fans turn out as well because it should make for a cracking atmosphere.
“I, for one, won’t be treating it as a summer kickabout, definitely not, I don’t think any player will – I just can’t wait for it now.”
Howard fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he played against the Magpies for Derby County during a 2-2 draw in December, 2007.
Now back in the North-East, the striker will again be at Gallowgate this season, although probably not in a playing capacity.
“Without a doubt I’ll be there when I get the chance,” he said, when asked if his return home meant a renewal of his season ticket.
“I’m a massive fan and all of my mates are Newcastle fans, it’s in the blood in my family.
“So with them being in the Europa League it might give me a chance to get to a few games on a Thursday or a Sunday.
“Who knows – I might even be there on a Saturday if we can go on a little run in the FA Cup!”
SEE Friday’s Mail for full story