BUSY Shots boss Terry Brown has begun his summer clear-out by presenting one of his rivals with an early summer bargain — goalkeeper Gareth Howells.
Despite spending most of the season on the substitute's bench as understudy to Nikki Bull, Howells is still, undoubtedly, one of the best goalkeepers at this level of football and Brown's decision to release the 32-year-old this week will no doubt spark a transfer scramble among Ryman League clubs or even Conference sides.
Howells was signed by the Shots in May 2001 from Sutton United, where he was a Ryman Championship winner. He previously had spells at St Albans and Farnborough Town after having played in the professional game for Tottenham as a youth and Torquay United.
He was certainly one of the stars of last season, making 55 appearances and impressing in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the club.
The signing of Bull last summer promised a competitive scrap for the number one shirt but Howells never really got the chance to impress and spent most of the season either on the bench or the treatment table with just 11 more appearances to his name.
Speaking to Shotsweb, Brown said: "I am really sorry to see Gareth go. We had talks this week concerning the future. Gareth is 32, an excellent goalkeeper and he obviously wants guaranteed first team football at this stage of his career. But I couldn't give him that guarantee."
His release will spark a transfer scramble with Sutton being the early favourites to re-claim their former hero.
Brown is now in the hunt for a young deputy for Bull with youth teamer Ben Lauder-Dyke currently the only other keeper on the books.