The former record signing has been out for almost 11 months, having suffered a patellar knee tendon injury at Leicester last December.
The Republic of Ireland international has had a couple of slight niggles since returning for pre-season which have delayed his return.
But he has now come though 90 minutes twice, in a behind closed doors game, and for the Under 23s, and boss Sean Dyche is delighted to welcome him back: “He’s definitely in contention, he’s feeling good, he’s had two 90s, and getting those in is a big thing, not just physically, but emotionally as well, how you feel, and he feels good.
“He’s enjoyed a week’s training with the boys as well, and that extra day helps as well, but he’s definitely back in contention.
“It’s like with Steven (Defour), they’ve been out a while, it’s not an actual new signing, but they add that freshness, players coming back often have that excitement again.
“Being injured is very difficult for players, I had a few long-term injuries when I was playing, and when you come out of that period, you get that high, that elation of training every day, playing, so we look forward to those two really getting back to full fitness, which they’re in the process of doing.”
However, Aaron Lennon is struggling with a bug, and is being assessed by the doctor: “Aaron Lennon has had a bit of illness this week.
“The doctor has gone to see Azza, a lot of these bugs are around and he’s had it for a couple of days, so he’s gone to check it’s nothing more sinister than a bug, so we’ll wait and see how he’s feeling.”
Ben Gibson is closing in on a return, after a hernia operation: “Ben Gibson came through a game, as did Robbie.
“Ben has been out a little bit now, very fit fella, but he’ll probably play again next week in a reserve game, just to ensure he’s really fit and over his injuries.
“So it’s the closest so far, without tempting fate, we’ve been to a more or less full squad.
“Stephen Ward is the only one, he had a knee flushed out, so he’ll be a bit of time yet.”