Simon Grayson has not shut the door on Keith Keane at Preston North End, despite loaning him out to Crawley Town until December.
Keane opted for the 93-day switch after not kicking a ball for PNE this season.
The fact that the Lilywhites are allowing him to play for Crawley in both the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and FA Cup suggests his time at Deepdale is drawing to a close.
But North End manager Grayson says that is a decision for later in the year rather than the present day.
He explained that the choice to move on loan was put in Keane’s hands after the initial approach from Crawley boss John Gregory.
Grayson said: “If ever I get an enquiry for any of our players, whether they are in the team or out of it, I will consider it and then ask the player their opinion.
“John Gregory spoke to me last Sunday about taking Keith and I told him I would ask the question of the player.
“I was not in a rush to get rid of Keith – he played a lot last season but not so much this time.
“Keith was asked if he wanted to get some first-team football and I like to let them make the decision rather than us force anything on them.
“Something like this has to fit from our point of view in terms of squad numbers and financially.
“It worked for us and then it was down to Keith. I think it reflected well on him that he wanted to go and play instead of being happy to sit in the stand picking up his money.
“This is not the end of the road for Keith here. He has played a lot for me and we will see where it goes over the next couple of months. Keith works hard in training and never lets you down on the pitch.
“We have competition in the position he plays with Calum Woods and Scott Wiseman at right-back.
“In midfield we have seen the emergence of Alan Browne and Josh Brownhill, coupled with Neil Kilkenny signing.
“Then you have got Jack King and John Welsh in there.
“Keith has gone slightly down the pecking order through no fault of his own, more so because of the emergence of other people.”
While former Norwich City midfielder David Fox has been training with PNE of late, Grayson says it not with a view to replacing Keane.
“I worked with Foxy for a couple of years at Blackpool and he went on to have a good career with Norwich in the Championship and Premier League,” said Grayson.
“The other week I got a call from his agent saying he was back in the North West and could he come to train.
“I had no problem with that and the other day we gave him 90 minutes at Blackburn.
“It is not something we are looking at in terms of a one-in, one-out with Keith.
“Who knows what might happen in the future but at the moment it suits Foxy to come here and keep fit.”
With Keane and Joel Byrom out on loan, and Stuart Beavon having turned his loan to Burton into a permanent deal, space has been created on the Deepdale wage bill.
If any incoming business is done, a striker seems a priority above other areas.