Free agent Joey Barton is back in training with Burnley, whose manager Sean Dyche refused to rule out a permanent reunion in the new year.
Barton played an influential role in the Clarets’ 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 crossing the border for Rangers.
He managed just eight matches for the Glasgow outfit before being suspended for his part in a training ground bust-up following a 5-1 thrashing by Old Firm rivals Celtic and was later handed a one-game ban for breaking Scottish Football Association rules on gambling.
His contract was terminated earlier this month but the 34-year-old is unable to sign for a new club until January, meaning neither party needs to rush a decision.
Dyche, under whom Barton enjoyed one of the most serene campaigns of a colourful career, was nevertheless quick to offer assistance and the midfielder is utilising the club’s Barnfield training complex for conditioning work.
There is no immediate prospect of the former Manchester City, Newcastle and QPR player linking up with his old team-mates but Dyche would not distance himself from such a move in the coming weeks.
“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,” said Dyche.
“He’s not with the first team, he’s doing background fitness work with the sports science team. That’s an ongoing thing until things change in the future.
“He’s just enjoying being back in and getting himself fit. He was generally fit of course but he’s just topping up.
“He’d had an indifferent time with being away from the club (Rangers) and different things going on in Scotland…so it’s about getting him fit and sharp.
“That’s good for him…who knows about us? We’ll take that on when I see fit.”
Whether Barton feels up to the pace of the Premier League, 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.
He arrived with the stated ambition of being the best player in Scotland, but managed just eight appearances, mostly underwhelming, and signed off with the humbling at Celtic Park.
Barton was later handed a one-match suspension for placing 44 bets on games between July 1, when his Ibrox deal started, and September 15.