A summer 1998 signing, defender Lee Howarth quickly showed his quality and experience at the centre of Boro’s defensive line-up. The player came to Boro’ with extensive Football League game-time under his belt; most recently at Barnet, where he turned out more than 100 times before moving up the A1. For us, he became a rock at the back; helping to haul us through an unstable era at the club too.
In his time with us, he played under three managers: Paul Fairclough, Richard Hill and – if it counts – Steve Wignall. There was further change off the pitch too as Phil Wallace came in as chairman to replace Victor Green with the club’s future in some doubt. But that didn’t stop Howarth from doing what he could to bring about success on the pitch. And we had a glimpse or two with an FA Cup run that took us to Lincoln and our fine start to the 1999-00 season. By winning six out of six then, it looked as if Boro’ had sights on the title.
History shows us, however, that Dickie Hill’s luck ran out in a huge way early that season. Howarth himself said: “I suppose you could accuse us of coasting as a team at times. We took things for granted. But when the rub of the green went against us, we knew had our work cut out”. The defender’s importance of the cause was shown by his 43 appearances that campaign. But two years is all we’d get from him. With Wignall not sticking around, it saw Cloughie come back as manager in summer 2000. Howarth, however, moved on.
Lee Howarth: Before Boro’
In addition to his time at Barnet, Howarth had decent spells at both Peterborough United and Mansfield Town. At Posh, to be fair, he did spend a bit of time on loan; most times at clubs in the surrounding area, but also making it as far afield as Ireland’s St Pat’s Athletic. Posh also marked the first time the player had left the north-west area. A native of Bolton, he started out at Blackpool in the mid-1980s – but had to go back down the ladder to start out properly; Horwich RMI and Chorley giving him that platform.
Lee Howarth: After Boro’
Aged 30 when he joined us, Howarth still had much to offer after leaving us and Boston United – a former loan club of his during his Posh days – were first to take him on after leaving Broadhall Way. He spent just the one season at York Street, however; leaving a season before the Pilgrims claimed the Conference title. He moved to Kettering Town in 2001 for two years, before settling at Bedford Town in 2003.
Even as a 40-something, Howarth was still turning out for Bedford Town (either side of a spell at Deeping Town). It looks like it wasn’t ’til 2010 that the defender would eventually hang up his boots after a long and respectable career.