Seven goals in ten games for reformed Rene
SOME OF the treatment he receives, from opponents and referees, would try the patience of a saint. But Rene Howe is learning to turn the other cheek.
Torquay United's centre-forward can seldom have played better than he is this season.
Seven goals from the Gulls' first ten games is a deserved return, AND he's making a big effort to avoid the 'cards' which could lead to a costly suspension.
"I haven't been booked for five games now, and I am trying to stay out of trouble," says Howe, who was sent off twice and cautioned ten times last season.
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"It's not easy sometimes, when decisions keep going the other way.
"But I know I've got to try and keep my cool."
In fact, the people who once wrote Howe off as a talented but wayward under-achiever might not recognise the man who is emerging now.
He scored goals for fun for his hometown club Bedford, in between working as an electrician on North Sea oil rigs, before moving up a class, still in non-League, to Kettering Town.
Howe did so well there that Peterborough United paid £100,000 for him in 2007.
But Howe had never had the important grounding that a two-year 'apprenticeship' at a League club would have given him.
Increasingly disillusioned, he made only three league starts in four years at London Road and was sent out on loan to Rochdale, Morecambe, Lincoln, Gillingham, Rushden and Bristol Rovers.
Not what he'd envisaged when he first put pen to paper at the Posh.
He calls it his 'Different Month, Different Town' period.
When Martin Ling signed Howe last summer, he did it against a background of 'If you can get him going, good luck to you' messages.
Howe, who'll be 26 later this month, may have had the odd frustrating spell over the last 15 months, but Ling has never regretted signing him.
Physically trimmed down from the figure who turned up during pre-season 2011, Howe's mix of physical strength, skill and awareness make him a formidable targetman who could surely play at a higher level.
He also seems a calmer, more mature person off the pitch.
He and his partner are eagerly looking forward to their first child arriving at Christmas.
"If I'd known a few years ago what I know now, I'd be a better player," he says.
"But I hope I've got better as a person, too, as I've grown up.
"I'm enjoying my football, and I'm in the best shape I've been in for a long time."
Of United's chances this season, he says: "People shouldn't judge us yet.
"Look, we've only lost once in ten games.
"Some people are saying that we don't score enough goals, and maybe we haven't scored as many as some other teams so far.
"But it will come. I'm confident it will."
When it does, it's hard to imagine that Howe will not be an integral part of it.
Especially if he can carry on keeping that 'cool' on the pitch.