Brian Howard could be on his way to join Bristol City
BRIAN Howard will be offered the chance to join Bristol's fight for Championship survival this week, providing he first proves his fitness.
A free agent after having his contract cancelled by cash-strapped League One strugglers Portsmouth, the 30-year-old midfielder is hoping to earn a new deal at Ashton Gate.
But Howard, pictured, who has been training with the Championship club for the past week, must first convince Robins head coach Sean O'Driscoll he has fully recovered from a recent hernia operation.
An interested spectator as City beat Nottingham Forest at Ashton Gate on Saturday, the former Barnsley, Sheffield United and Reading star is set to feature as one of three permitted over-age players in an under-21 FA Development League fixture against Millwall in London tomorrow night. And if he comes through that test with flying colours, the 30-year-old will almost certainly become O'Driscoll's second signing since he took over as City's new head coach a month ago.
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O'Driscoll told The Post: "Brian has trained really well and we will play him in the under-21s on Tuesday to see where his fitness is at.
"I tried to sign him when I was at Crawley (last summer), but they were not a sufficiently attractive proposition for him.
"He has just had a hernia operation and is a little behind with his fitness. I'm not looking for reasons not to sign him, but I have to do my due diligence.
"If I'm going to do this for every player, then I cannot make any exceptions.
"He has played in the Championship and, personality-wise, there are no problems.
"If I think he can be an asset, then I'll sign him. He will be a good addition for us."
Howard started the season at Portsmouth and remained at Fratton Park on month-to-month deals until his contract was cancelled in January.
City are still at liberty to sign the midfielder on a free transfer, even though the January window has closed.
O'Driscoll said: "Like a lot of players at Portsmouth, Brian has been unfortunate.
"But the fact he has had his contract terminated, means he is a free agent and we can sign him."
Given that City sold Martyn Woolford, Brett Pitman and Joe Edwards, said goodbye to loan signings Neil Danns and Stephen McManus and released Jody Morris from his contract in January, means O'Driscoll has scope to bring players in between now and next month's deadline for emergency loans.
Striker Steven Davies has become the latest player to join City's mounting casualty list. The former Derby County forward opened the scoring against Forest at the weekend before limping off with a calf problem near the end.
He joins fellow strikers Sam Baldock and Ryan Taylor, midfielders Cole Skuse and Neil Kilkenny and defender Louis Carey in the treatment room at the club's Failand training headquarters.
While O'Driscoll is confident Carey, Baldock and Skuse could be back in time to face Championship leaders Cardiff next Saturday, he fears top-scorer Davies could join Taylor and Kilkenny on the list of long-term absentees.
On the plus side, star winger Albert Adomah is on his way back to Bristol after helping Ghana finish fourth in the African Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa.
A second-half substitute in Saturday's 3-1 third place play-off defeat to Mali in Port Elizabeth, Adomah is expected to be available for Saturday's trip to Cardiff.