Bedford have announced that long-serving lock Mike Howard will be leaving the club in the summer.
The 31-year-old has been a mainstay of the second row since joining from North Walsham in 2008 and he has played a huge role in the Blues’ successes ever since.
With well over 200 Blues appearances to his name, Howard has been a true stalwart of the club and as such he will be honoured with a testimonial game at Goldington Road on Saturday, May 6.
To celebrate his tremendous, Howard has put together an invitational team made up of team mates that he has played alongside since 2008.
The likes of Sacha Harding, Nick Walshe, Gregor Gillanders, Brendan Burke, Phil Boulton, Chris Locke, TJ Harris, Heath Stevens, Dan Seal, Ricky Reeves, Tom Williams, Ian Vass, Brett Daynes, Jake Sharp, John Harlock, Pete White, Mark Kohler and Baden Kerr will be joined by Mike’s brother Chris as well as Paul Tupai and his son Conor, with Matt Volland coaching the team which will have more players announced soon.
Speaking about his departure from Goldington Road, Howard said: “First and foremost, I want to thank the Bedford Blues fans for their continuous support since the day I first pulled on a jersey and ran up and down the slope. Playing in front of the Goldington Road faithful has been one of the biggest privileges that you could ever imagine and it is something that I will miss tremendously.
”I’ve been extremely fortunate to experience some wonderful games over the years. Beating Bristol after the fans cleared the pitch of snow, the Championship semi-final up at Worcester as well as the British & Irish Cup Final were all amazing, but the standout has to be the Championship Final against Newcastle Falcons.
“While the result may not have gone our way, it really was an adventure with a fantastic bunch of lads and we loved every moment.
“I’m delighted that I have been offered a testimonial game and the chance to say a final farewell to everyone at Goldington Road.
“Bedford Blues has been a huge part of my life and I cannot thank everyone involved with the club enough for their support and encouragement over the years.”
Paying tribute to Howard, Blues director of dugby Mike Rayer said: “Mike came to us as a raw and enthusiastic young man and through sheer graft and bloody mindedness has now managed to post over 200 appearances for the club.
“An example of this is that for the past few seasons Mike has been doing 6am weights sessions before doing a days work and then training with the team in the evening.
“That takes some doing given the current landscape of the Championship and gives you an insight into the hard work and commitment he has put in.
“I want to thank him for his dedication to the Blues and he leaves the club with everyone’s best wishes for the future and I’m sure that the fans will also jump at the opportunity to give him a proper send off.”
Mike Howard’s Legends v Bedford Blues will kick off at 3pm on Saturday, May 6 at Goldington Road.
Tickets will be available soon online at www.bedfordrugby.co.uk or from the club with a £10 donation from adults and a £2 donation from children.