GOALKEEPER Russ Howarth today spoke of his delight at joining Tranmere Rovers after taking a lead from former York City favourite Dean Kiely.

As reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Press, Howarth has moved to Prenton Park for an undisclosed five-figure fee after signing a two and a half-year deal.

The transfer ends months of speculation about the England Under-20 international's future and the young shot-stopper, who made just 14 first team appearances at City, admitted he was delighted to have his future now sorted.

"It has been a long wait but finally I seem to have got the break I was hoping for," he told the Evening Press.

"I felt I had gone a little bit stale at York and the time was right to move on. Obviously, I would have liked it to have happened in the summer but it wasn't to be. I've had to be patient and I'm just delighted."

After being linked with possible moves to the likes of Everton, Wolves, Sunderland, Tottenham, Leeds and Newcastle over the years, signing for a Second Division club could seem only a small step-forward in comparison.

However, Howarth, 20, reckons former City ace Kiely, who moved from the Minstermen to Bury before making it to the Premiership with Charlton, was the perfect inspiration.

"If you were looking for someone to look up to then he would be the one," reasoned Howarth.

"He left York to go to a relatively small club in Bury but he proved himself there and then got into the Premier League.

"I've signed a two-and-a-half year contract with Tranmere and we will just have to see how it goes here first.

"I have to get into the team here and hopefully then people will notice me.

"But I'm not taking anything for granted. It would be a bit nave of me to think I will just walk straight into the first team here. I might have to wait for my chance."

He added: "I am just pleased to have got a bit of stability back after all that has happened.

"The fact I didn't have a contract is always at the back of your mind because you never know what might happen in football. Now I can settle down again and concentrate on my football."

Despite his recent problems at City, Howarth said he would always be grateful to the club and was keeping his fingers crossed the Minstermen will win promotion this season.

"I would love to see that happen," he insisted.

"They are my hometown club and I used to support them when I was a kid and I'm good mates with the lads so will definitely be keeping in touch.

"If I can get down and watch the odd game I will and it would be great if they go on to get promotion this season."

In light of Howarth's departure, manager Terry Dolan is not in the hunt for a new goalkeeper.

Dolan confirmed first-year professional Jon Collinson will now deputise for Alan Fettis and be first choice for the reserves.

Howarth may get a sooner than expected chance to hook-up with some former City colleagues tonight.

City's youth team are in action at Prenton Park when they take on their Rovers' counterparts in the second round of the prestigious FA Youth Cup, kick-off 7pm

It promises to be the stiffest of tests for City's young guns.

Tranmere have won all four of their North West Conference league outings this season, scoring 20 goals and conceding just four.

Having played three games less, they currently lie second in their division behind Preston North End, 5-2 conquerors of the City youngsters last Saturday in the Football League Youth Alliance Cup.

However, there is a strict age limit on the competition which could deny Rovers a number of their more experienced third-year trainees from competing.

The rule means defender Stuart Wise and goalkeeper Mark Hampshire are ineligible for City tonight.

Head of youth development Paul Stancliffe and his assistant, Brian Neaves, have called up five members of the club's under-16 squad for the trip to the Wirral.

City youth team (from): Stockdale, Anderson, Ashcroft, Arthur, Baynes, Stewart, Law, Davies, McKenzie, Coad, Yalcin, McCabe, Reid, Webster, Lyons, Haw, Kamara

Updated: 10:05 Wednesday, November 06, 2002