Martin Ling sings praises of Torquay United's key striker Rene Howe
Torquay United manager Martin Ling believes that his in-form centre-forward Rene Howe has the potential to score 30 goals this season, but he would be quite happy if Howe's pursuit of a club record ends at Bristol Rovers tomorrow – if the Gulls win at the Memorial Ground.
"Am I concerned with club records? No, not really, although I'm sure it's in the back of Rene's mind," said Ling.
"I would take a 1-0 win on Saturday with someone else scoring, of course I would."
If Howe, who has scored nine goals already this season, finds the net again against Rovers, he will equal a club record of scoring in seven successive League games. It is currently held by Bristol-born 1950s marksman Sammy Collins and Carl Airey, who matched the feat in the autumn of 1988.
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"I'd say there's a possibility that Rene could get 30 goals this season," said Ling. "If you've got nine after 12 games, why not?
"He's been the figurehead of the team so far. It's not just his goals, but the system we play means that the centre-forward has to be able to hold the ball up, and Rene has done that too. But we're not a one-man team, and I don't think Rene wants to be seen as a one-man team.
"One of the best things to come out of the JPT game against Yeovil this week [when United lost 2-1] was that Ryan Jarvis came in for Rene, scored two goals and played very well. Ryan is going to be needed, either as a replacement for Rene or, maybe, as a partner for him."
One of two things could take Howe out of the equation in the future – suspension, as he is currently on four bookings, or transfer interest from elsewhere. United have a big week ahead, with npower League Two leaders Gillingham on Tuesday and Morecambe tomorrow week, both at Plainmoor, after the Bristol trip.
"Rene is going to miss a game sooner or later," said Ling, "You can't try and plan or plot which game it's going to be. He didn't play on Tuesday night, and he wasn't missed.
"There have been question-marks from some people about Ryan Jarvis for a while, but he got a standing ovation when he came off against Yeovil.
"People have to rely on me. I've worked with Ryan before, and I know what he can do for us. He's not just Rene's understudy."
Howe's contract, like many others, is up at the end of the season, but Ling stressed: "It's too early to worry about people's contracts in September or October. I'm not losing any sleep over that. I think we've got about 40 per cent in contract at the end of the season and 60 per out. It may even be 30-70.
"There will be teams taking note of what Rene is about. When I signed him 20 months ago, there wasn't a massive queue for him then.
"Before he came here, he had almost lost interest in football, and he looked that way. But he's taken about 20lb off, he's fitter, he's a better professional and everything in his make-up now is about being a footballer.
"The grass isn't always greener on the other side. He's playing well and scoring goals for us, that's what matters. And long may it continue."