RENE Howe says that no-one other than himself and manager Gary Rowett will ever know the reason he was left out of the Burton Albion squad for seven games – but has thanked the fans for their support during his absence.
Howe was something of a marquee signing in the summer, and looked to be the man to fill the void left by Calvin Zola’s transfer to Aberdeen.
He scored on his debut against Rochdale, and again a week later at Fleetwood Town, but after a run of seven consecutive league starts, was benched for two matches before dropping out of the squad altogether.
However, he returned to play his first football for nearly two months as a substitute against Bristol Rovers, and after two further games off the bench, started last Saturday’s FA Cup clash, again at Fleetwood.
Asked if it had been frustrating being out of the side, Howe said: “A little bit.
“That’s between me and the gaffer.
“No-one really knows what has happened, and I don’t think anyone will except me and the gaffer.
“I’ve been working hard for the last four weeks, and the gaffer has noticed that.
“I played a couple of reserve games, and scored two goals against Wolves.
“I’ve played well when I’ve come on as a substitute and I was unlucky not to get a goal.”
While Howe has been out, Albion fans on social networking site Twitter have been clamouring for the former Torquay United striker to be recalled.
“I’m a big man on Twitter,” admitted the 27-year-old.
“And I like to have a bit of banter here and there.
“But it’s lovely to have the fans Tweet at you, and I return the favour in kind by Tweeting back.”
With Adam McGurk and Michael Symes doubts with injury this weekend, Howe could start up front alongside Billy Kee for the visit of York City to the Pirelli Stadium, kick-off 3pm.
It will be only the second time the pair – who played together at Plainmoor –have started a game together, and the first time since that Rochdale game more than four months ago.
“We all train together and do finishing work together,” said Howe, who has also played up front alongside McGurk and Symes.
“Whoever is there, we expect to do well in that strike partnership.
“I’m always happy when I’m playing my football, and hopefully that can continue.
“We’ve got a good squad here with five good strikers playing for two positions.
“If that continues for the rest of the season, then that can only be a good thing.”
Howe hit the post early in the second half against Fleetwood, while he was left perplexed by a decision to rule out a perfectly legitimate goal scored away to Plymouth.
On that ghost goal at Home Park, he said: “That was ridiculous.
“The guy has gone to kick the ball and kicked his own ankles.
“I was two yards behind him when he kicked the ball, so I don’t know what the linesman was thinking.
“The linesman actually said to me after the game that he wouldn’t have given it, but the ref gave it.”
After the visit of the Minstermen, Albion host the Cod Army in the FA Cup replay, and Howe believes that his side deserved a second chance to progress to a trip to Bournemouth in the third round.
The Brewers went behind seven minutes from times, but substitute Kee grabbed an injury-time equaliser.
“It’s hard to go a goal down in the 83rd minute and then get a goal back,” said Howe.
“But we carried on pumping the ball up, and Bill has got in and scored the goal.
“That’s what you want to see.
“I thought we set our stall out well, to defend from the front first of all.
“Then we countered on them, and I hit the post at the start of the second half.
“Maybe if that had gone in, the result would have been different.
“But then they got their goal, and we were thinking maybe that’s it.
“But luckily the lads stuck at it.”
Earlier this season, Albion raced into a 3-0 half-time lead at Highbury Stadium, but Howe admitted it was a different Fleetwood side that they faced last weekend.
“We didn’t know how they were going to be back then, so we played a lot differently,” he said.
“I think they were always going to have more possession this time, because of the way they take it out from the back.
“And if we had chased them, they would have just passed it around us.”