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Ex-skipper Howard in talks over Oakwell return

By Doug O'Kane, Sports Editor Friday 20th June 2014
Brian Howard.

Former captain Brian Howard is in advanced negotiations with Barnsley over a return to Oakwell.

 

Howard, now 31, confirmed to the Chronicle this week that he has spoken to Reds manager Danny Wilson but has not yet been made a firm offer and there are several other clubs interested in signing him.

 

Barnsley chief executive Ben Mansford told the Chronicle: "Brian is regularly linked with this club because of what he did in the past but I can confirm he is one of our targets. There are other options for us and it is probably 50/50 whether we sign him."

 

Howard – who was close to joining the Reds a year ago until then manager David Flitcroft pulled out of the deal – is a free agent after leaving Birmingham last month and is known to be very keen on a return to Oakwell, where he had three successful years.

 

With one week until pre-season training begins and 50 days until the start of the League One campaign, the Reds are keen to start adding to a squad which currently contains 18 players, seven of whom have never played a competitive game. After initially saying they would sign 15 to 20 players, Barnsley now want to have an 18-man first team squad for the start of the season. This will include the likes of Danny Rose, Paul Digby and Reuben Noble-Lazarus as well as some younger, untried players and be supported by an under 21s side.

 

Wilson had a blend of experienced players and academy graduates when he took the Reds to the Premiership in 1997 and may look to Howard to guide his youngsters. The attacking midfielder scored 28 goals in 137 games for the Reds between 2005 and 2008 and led them to promotion from League One in 2006.

 

He controversially left for local rivals Sheffield United, initially on loan before a January transfer, and has since been booed by Barnsley fans when featuring against them. Howard was a regular goal threat for the Reds but, since leaving Oakwell, he has scored just eight in 156 games across six seasons.

 

The former Southampton and Swindon youngster struggled for form in less than a year at Bramall Lane before joining Reading for £500,000. He fell out of favour with the Royals in the season that they were promoted to the Premier League and was sent out on loan to Millwall.

 

In the 2012/13 season, he made 23 goalless appearances for Portsmouth who were destined for relegation from League One before joining Bristol City and coming off the bench six times as they lost out to the Reds in the battle at the bottom of the Championship.

 

He was unattached for the first half of the season just gone before joining Birmingham in January. He scored once – his first league goal for almost four years – in five games for the Blues, who just avoided joining the Reds in League One on the final day.