Sean Dyche refuses to rule out Burnley return for Joey Barton
Free agent Joey Barton is back in training with Burnley, whose manager Sean Dyche will not rule out a permanent reunion in the new year.
Barton's contract with Rangers was terminated earlier this month after just eight matches and plenty of ruffled feathers, and a return to the Clarets when he becomes available again in January could be in the offing.
The 34-year-old played an influential role in Burnley's promotion to the Premier League last season and was voted player of the year by the club's fans before rejecting a new deal and heading north of the border for Rangers.
He arrived amid big talk of proving himself the best player in Scotland but his most noteworthy contributions were an internal suspension for his part in a training ground bust-up following a 5-1 thrashing by Old Firm rivals Celtic and a Scottish Football Association ban for breaching gambling rules that would carry over to any new English club.
Dyche, under whom Barton enjoyed one of the most seren e campaigns of a colourful career, was nevertheless quick to offer assistance and the midfielder is utilising the club's Barnfield complex for conditioning work.
There is no immediate prospect of the former Manchester City, Newcastle and QPR player joining first-team training but despite Dyche's best attempts to divert speculation, it is a move that could suit both parties.
There is even a possibility Barton could be eligible for Burnley's development squad before the transfer window reopens.
"I'm not ruling anything out or in," said Dyche.
"I said last week if he needed us and wanted to come in he'd be more than welcome, which he is, and he's been training with us for a number of days now.
"He's not training with the first team, just getting fit. We'll have a chat in the future, at the moment of truth, but not at the moment.
"You tend to gravitate to where you've just been, myself and my staff get on with him, so I was happy to say 'come in'.
"It's about him getting fit and sharp. That's good for him...who knows about us? We'll take that on when I see fit."
The appeal for Dyche is obvious, given his good personal relationship with Barton and wage demands that would be relatively modest by Premier League standards.
Whether the player feels up to the pace of the division, having voluntarily walked away in the summer, is an open question and Derby are among his suitors in the Sky Bet Championship.
But he may also take the chance to prove himself one last time on the big stage having fallen flat north of the border.
"It's not for me to start reflecting on his time at Rangers, but he needed somewhere, he knows what we're about and that he'll be looked after," added Dyche.
"Whatever peoples' opinions are of who did what up there, the fact is you clear your mind, get your body right and who knows after that?
"I don't really see why he'd have anything to prove."