Born at Preston, Lancashire, right back Bob Howarth joined Preston North End from junior football in 1883, and for eight years was a member of the North End side that earned the title of “The Invincibles”. He was in the Preston side that were 1887-88 FA Cup Finalists, losing 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion at The Kennington Oval. The following season he was a member of their inaugural Football League match against Burnley in September 1888, and he was in the Preston side that did The Double, being Football League Champions and 1889 FA Cup Winners, as they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 in the Final at The Kennington Oval to seal The Double, remaining unbeaten throughout the season in the process, with Howarth missing only 4 League games.
The following season they were again League Champions with Howarth missing only a single match. In December 1891 he joined Everton, and played for them in the 1893 FA Cup Final, which they lost 1-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Fallowfield, then captaining the club in 1893-94, and making 69 appearances for The Toffees before returning to finish his career by re-joining Preston North End in 1894. He added three more first team appearances playing his last game for Preston in March 1899, having made 58 appearances for them in the post Football League era on top of the many he had made in their pre League days.
He gained several representative honours, making four appearances for England. His England debut came in a 7-0 win over Ireland at Bramall Lane in February 1887, and his last cap was earned in a 2-2 draw against Ireland at Cliftonville Gardens, Belfast in March 1894, his only cap when an Evertonian. He was selected for three further England squads from which he had to withdraw. He also played twice for The Football League.