Tim Howard was signed by David Moyes in late May 2006 on a one-year loan deal from Manchester United as concerns grew that Nigel Martyn would not fully recover from a hairline fracture in his ankle that brought a premature end to both his 2005-06 season and, ultimately, his career.
With Moyesy already doubtful of Richard Wright's ability to fill the void left by Martyn, reinforcements between the sticks were seen as one of three priorities during the 2006 close season alongside central defence and attack.
Born in North Brunswick, New Jersey, Howard started his career in Major League Soccer with the New Jersey Metrostars and was there for five seasons before Sir Alex Ferguson earmarked him as a potential solution to what had become a problem position a Old Trafford. With Fabien Bartez leaving United, Howard was signed in the summer of 2003 and joined rival Roy Carroll for £2.3M.
Unfortunately, the American's attempts at making the first-choice 'keeper spot his own were undermined by some key blunders and, along with Carroll, he wasn't considered good enough for Manchester United.
Despite that, Howard did make 77 appearances for the Manc's before the arrival of Dutch international, Edwin van der Saar, from Fulham on a two-year deal. Van der Saar immediately became first choice at Old Trafford, relegating Howard to the role of understudy.
The USA international now has a new lease of life at Goodison Park. After signing he said “ I am really looking forward to playing first-team football and the new challenges that that will bring”.
Interestingly, Howard suffers from Tourette's Syndrome... so he's probably right at home in the stadia of the English Premiership!
Howard certainly proved a big hit with the Everton fans, putting in some solid performances that underwrote Everton's fine start to the 2006-07 season. There were soon cries for the loan deal to be made permanent as the confidence he gave the Everton defence was tangible.
However, cracks started to appear in the odd game toward Christmas, as Everton slipped down the table from their early lofty perch. Howard did well to reassert his confidence and domination of the penalty area, though, getting back on track in the New Year with plenty of clean sheets as Everton built an impressive positive goal difference.
The clamour for Everton to sign Howard permanently became deafening in the January transfer window... but nothing happened. Then, on Valentine's Day, a five-year deal was announced, for an "undisclosed" fee, believed to be around £3M.
The deal was reported somewhat confusingly, though. Some said it would not kick in until after the season ended, that Howard remained on loan, and would be excluded from playing against Man Utd on 28 April 2007. He did not play in that pivotal game... but the explanations turned out to be much more murky.
Tim Howard did indeed become a full and permanent Everton player, ending his loan deal, on 14 February 2007. According to FAPL rules, Everton could have played him against Manchester United but agreed not to under the terms of a "gentleman's agreement", in the case that United were still in with a shout for the Premiership title! By agreeing not to play him, Everton accepted a third-party influence on team selection, and that is illegal under the FAPL Rules.
It was a pity that the incident would overshadow a tremendous season for Tim Howard where he seemed to put his prior inconsistencies behind him and cemented his place as first-choice goalkeeper at Goodison Park.
The following season (2007-08) there was no such encumbrance, but his performances against his old club were not stellar moments, with the blues shipping 8 goals. Despite this, he came perilously close to equalling Neville Southall's record of cleans sheets in a league season, given Everton once again a 'keeper we could trust between the sticks.