PREVIEW: Crystal Palace vs Bristol City
NOBODY should doubt Brian Howard's determination to keep Bristol City in the npower Championship this season.
Having spent much of his career in the English second tier, the 30-year-old midfielder opted to try his hand in League One with cash-strapped Portsmouth when he joined the south coast club last summer. And it is not an experience the former Barnsley, Sheffield United and Reading playmaker, pictured, wants to repeat in a hurry.
Pompey's much-publicised off-field problems overshadowed everything that happened on the pitch and Howard, feeling he had been recruited under false pretences, breathed a sigh of relief when his contract was cancelled in January. Snapped up by Championship strugglers Bristol City until the end of the season, the former Swindon man is at last back where he belongs and is hell-bent on staying there.
Speaking ahead of tonight's contest against promotion-chasing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, Howard recalled: "I went in there (Portsmouth) in pre-season and was promised a lot of things. I was promised a three-year contract and they showed me a list of players they were going to bring in.
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"I was told they were going to do what Southampton and Brighton had done – rebuild from the bottom up and get up to the next level and kick on again. They said they wanted to make me club captain and build a team around me.
"They wanted me to go there when they were rock bottom and help take them back to the top again. They told me I would be a hero.
"In hindsight, I suppose they could have said that to everyone, but they sold it to me. I thought to myself 'let's do this'. It seemed like a really good challenge for me.
"But until I got there and signed on the dotted line, I didn't realise just how much of a challenge it was going to be. None of the things that were promised were ever delivered and I knew pretty quickly I'd made a mistake.
"It was tough, because it's a really good club with really good players and good people down there. But it was one of those situations where you had to look after yourself."
Howard has already afforded City fans a glimpse of what he is capable of and the defence-splitting pass that provided Steven Davies with a clear sight of goal at Cardiff will no doubt have given Robins head coach Sean O'Driscoll food for thought.
City's inability to retain possession was perhaps their biggest failing at the Cardiff City Stadium and no amount of organisation and discipline can paper over the cracks exposed by the Championship's best team.
Should O'Driscoll seek to fight fire with fire against Ian Holloway's play-off hopefuls in the capital tonight, then it seems reasonable to assume Howard, Neil Kilkenny and Albert Adomah could play a part from the start at Selhurst Park.
"It was disappointing to lose, but I really enjoyed my ten minutes on the pitch," added Howard, who made an immediate impact after coming off the bench. "I got on the ball, played a couple of through balls and felt I made a difference.
"Hopefully, I can do the same on Tuesday night. Playing Cardiff and Crystal Palace in my first two matches is a baptism of fire, but these are the big games you want to be involved in as a player.
"These are the sort of games I've missed while I've been away from the Championship and it feels great to be back."