BRIAN Howard began training with Oxford United yesterday – and head coach Michael Appleton is not ruling out a move.

The 31-year-old (pictured) is a free agent after being released by Birmingham City at the end of last season, so is not bound by any transfer windows.

Appleton, who signed the midfielder for Portsmouth and made him captain, offered Howard the chance to train with the U’s for a couple of weeks to keep his fitness levels topped up.

He said: “There’s no guarantees of contracts or anything like that, but I know what he can bring if he’s at a place where I know he can be in terms of fitness and mentally.

“I’m certainly not ruling it out because the level of football he’s played at and where he’s spent most of his career, so let’s see what he’s like and what sort of shape he’s in.”

Howard shot to fame during Barnsley’s run to the FA Cup semi-finals in 2007-08, scoring a late winner at Anfield to knock out Liverpool.

His entire career, which has included spells at Sheffield United, Reading and Millwall, has been spent in either the Championship or League One.

Howard is likely to have set his sights higher than the fourth tier, although with no contract secured by September, it could leave the door open.

Appleton is unsure if anything will come of the arrangement, but admitted if United were keen the fact he had spent time in the set-up would count in their favour.

He said: “It’s one of those where you have to go from optimism to realism.

“It’s like anything, possession is nine-tenths of the law and sometimes when someone is in the building you just don’t know.”

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