THE form of York City number one Alan Fettis is the underlying reason behind the decision of England Under-21 goalkeeper Russ Howarth to look elsewhere, the Evening Press can reveal.

And with his agent already having preliminary talks with a higher division club, Howarth could be off to pastures new in the next couple of weeks.

Howarth, whose talents were rewarded with a call-up to the England U21 squad for the European Championship, is desperate to further his career.

However, with Northern Ireland shot-stopper Fettis in such impressive form over the past two seasons, Howarth has been limited to just a handful of first team appearances and it is a situation the 20-year-old can't see changing in the near future.

Speaking to the Evening Press today, Howarth revealed: "I haven't ruled out still playing for York City. As far as I'm concerned there is nothing wrong with the club.

"Personally, though, with Alan (Fettis) ahead of me and doing so well, I just can't see myself getting any first team games, barring injury.

"There are no problems with Terry (Dolan). He understands my position and I understand his."

Howarth's current deal runs out on June 30, leaving him technically a free agent after that, although City can still demand a transfer fee from one of their most prized assets through a tribunal as he is under the age of 24.

No value has been put on Howarth, but with Chris Kirkland, another England U21 'keeper going from Coventry to Liverpool in an £8million deal, City will not let him go cheaply.

This is unlikely to put off the host of clubs already linked with moves for Howarth, including Sunderland, Wolves, Leeds and Everton.

Howarth's agent has already had talks with one unnamed club but the highly-rated net-minder has claimed 'nothing is cast iron yet'.

Howarth added: "It is just a case of waiting to see what comes along, but obviously there is only so long I can hang on."

While Howarth is almost certain to be heading out of Bootham Crescent, City are still waiting on right-back Edmondson, with the former Carlisle player believed to be on holiday.

Meanwhile the end of the World Cup could signal the incoming of new players at Bootham Crescent.

City boss Terry Dolan has already admitted to fans he is after 'ideally a big man' up front, having been given the green light from chairman John Batchelor to strengthen the squad.

Dolan is planning to sit down with his coaching duo of Adie Shaw and Luther Blissett after the World Cup and sift through the list of available players.

The Professional Footballers' Association are set to publish an undated list of footballers who are looking for clubs in the next few days - with players having to let clubs know by tomorrow whether they are going to accept or turn down new deals offered to them.

Players who reject will then officially become free agents.

Dolan has already captured experienced Scottish defender Tom Cowan from Cambridge United and young hitman Craig Wilding from Chesterfield, both on free transfers.

But with leading scorer Michael Proctor returning to Sunderland after his season-long spell at the club, City are hunting to increase their firepower.

Updated: 11:54 Tuesday, June 18, 2002