Howard thrilled with return to Hartlepool United

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STEVE Howard had offers on the table from three Championship clubs – but none could match the emotional pull and excitement of a return to Hartlepool United, writes CRAIG HOPE.

The 36-year-old – angry at being frozen out of the first-team picture at Leicester last season – spoke to close friend and Pools coach Micky Barron at the start of the summer, expressing his disillusion with the game.

It was then that Barron demanded his former team-mate “get his backside” up to the North-East for talks with himself and Neale Cooper.

Howard mulled over offers from at least half a dozen clubs, opting yesterday to become Pools’ third close-season signing.

Howard explained: “I wasn’t enjoying my football at Leicester. I wasn’t allowed to go on loan and I just wanted to play.

“There were false promises and that was frustrating.

“I sat down and had a chat with my dad and said ‘listen, I’m still more than capable of doing it, I’m just not enjoying it because I’m not playing’.

“Micky told me I could come here and start enjoying my football again.

“I spoke to him and Neale and it just felt right, but I took my time to think about things because I had a few offers.

“They were good offers as well, but after I spoke to Neale and Micky I knew inside where I wanted to be.

“I thought ‘yeah, this is where I need to come’.

“Here I am, and I’m absolutely delighted.”

Howard will meet his new team-mates for the first time when they jet out to Holland tomorrow for a pair of friendlies against Dutch second-tier opposition.

“It’s great timing,” added the striker. “Apparently it’s a lovely place, so I’m just looking forward to getting my head down, getting in some hard work and feeling part of the group with the lads.”