Howard’s focus this year will fall firmly on getting Everton into the UEFA Champions League, something they just missed out on last season, while also continuing his fledgling career as a game and panel commentator on American television. Not one to take it easy,FIFA Coins, he’s also recently finished a memoir; The Keeper is due on shelves in December.
Howard, who has lived with the neuropsychiatric disorder Tourette’s Syndrome all his life, still gets nervous before slipping on his headset and bellying up to the microphone. “There’s a lot of pressure in the booth,” he said, dismissing assertions that it must be a relief to be out of the firing line for once. “It’s not the same as being responsible for a win or a loss, but it has its own pressures. In a lot of ways it’s the same as a game: you want to do your best and you want to get it right.”
And far from the wild-man show he puts on in the penalty area, Howard’s commentary is sensitive and calm. And like any good competitor joining a new team, he knows his role. “I put a lot of what’s going on in context,” he said, highlighting what an active player, one who knows the ins and outs of today’s Premier League, can bring to a broadcast. He knows what it smells like in the tunnel at Anfield or Old Trafford, not ten or twenty years ago, but right now. He’s faced the players he’s watching, and he’ll meet them again soon.
Howard talks about wanting to play in the next FIFA World Cup?, in Russia in 2018, when he will be 39. He’s proven he can don any number of hats – writer, keeper, captain, commentator – so why should something as simple as a fourth trip to the World Cup prove much of a problem?