Howell, out of contract and unable to agree a new reduced deal following Cox’s budget cut, played the second half of yesterday’s 3-1 friendly win over Notts County.
Cox is adamant that much of the problem with keeping Howell and Lindon Meikle, who has moved on to York, was down to their agent.
“I need to sit down with Anthony, the board and the chairman to see if we can finalise this one way or the other where we are going,” said Cox.
“I don’t mind people giving me stick, but I won’t close the door on a boy who has done so well for us over the past three seasons.
“I want to give him every opportunity to get a contract if we can agree something we can afford.
“It would be very easy to slam the door. But I don’t think it was 100 per cent Lindon Meikle and Anthony Howell’s fault this summer. I think there have been a few crossed wires.
“It’s not favouritism, though I know some people have their opinions about my personality. You just need a bit of empathy in life. You need to give people opportunities.
“I was given one here and I want to pass that on. But we need to know one way or another, and the sooner the better.”