Sean Dyche looks unlikely to launch Joey Barton on Sunderland tomorrow. Although the Burnley boss has indicated he will ring the changes for the third-round cup trip to the Stadium of Light, he has told the former Newcastle antagoniser he must prove he is still up to the rigors of top-level English football before getting a run in a claret shirt.
At 34, Barton only completed a handful of Scottish Premier League fixtures this season before his Rangers jaunt turned sour. In fact, you have would have to cast your mind back to the 2014/15 season to recall the last time he featured in the English top-flight for Queens Park Rangers.
Now reunited after a successful stint in Burnley's promotion campaign last season, Dyche has challenged Barton to earn a place in the Clarets' line-up and told him he may have to settle for being a squad member, called on as required:
It's a different level of football and he's got to earn the right to get a game first.
He'll be well aware of that. The team is certainly going well enough on its own at the moment. But we feel he can be an important part of the squad.
With the former Newcastle man sweating on the outcome of an FA investigation into his alleged betting practices, there is some suggestion that Dyche might fancy throwing Barton into the fray tomorrow - before he cops a lengthy ban. For one thing, the midfielder's presence will mix it up a bit in front of a hostile home crowd and add some spice to early round apathy.
And the Burnley boss has already confirmed he will make some changes for the trip to Sunderland:
There's a possibility of changes because I think we've got a deeper squad now and I think there are players who right on the cusp of getting a shirt.
It's a good chance to see if they are right on the cusp and to see if they can perform and to keep them right for the challenges that come next.
With his side gaining themselves a little leeway in the Premier League - Burnley are now eight points ahead of Sunderland - Dyche might just fancy a cup run to supplement a season which is showing promise in the league.
There's no thought other than to win a game. Within that, I think there's a group here which can win football matches, whoever we play, for whatever reason. I think there's a belief in the squad here now.
The FA Cup present a different challenge. People speak about it being a break from the norm, which I guess it is, but it’s still a Premier League club we face and we want to go and get through to the next round.
We might well make changes, but that is not doing the cup down. We feel we have a more rounded squad and one that can win games.
There is still an emotional attachment that comes with the cup and, for sure, if we can get a cup run, we’ll take it.
Various websites are hanging their headlines on the 'Barton returns' bait. Truth be told, he doesn't even appear in their provisional squad.
And Finally, A Word For Andre Gray
The last time Roker Report ran this feature on Burnley - ahead of our league meeting a week ago in which David Moyes' side was roundly humiliated - we speculated on the showbiz gossip that striker Andre Gray had 'gone public' on his blossoming relationship with Little Mix singer Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
Fans of the girl group have not taken the news well after learning of Gray's FA misconduct charge last year for appearing to condone killing gay people. He received a ban of four games as a result and issued an apology.
Burnley's Andre Gray is banned for four games after being found guilty of misconduct for a tweet he posted in 2012. #PL pic.twitter.com/ymTy4lAOzj— SBOBET (@SBOBET) September 23, 2016
But, the striker's hat-trick against us during the festive period proved one thing - the benefit of spending your Christmas cosied up with a pop princess.