Andy Burgess yesterday made his expected move back to Northamptonshire, where he lives.

But it was to his old club Rushden rather than League One club Northampton Town, who had reportedly been showing interest over the summer.

The 25-year-old midfielder, who is recovering from a knee operation performed on Monday, has joined the Diamonds on a two-year contract.

It is a free transfer. However, there is a sell-on clause and United would receive a percentage should Burgess be sold by Rushden.

One of the most skilful left-sided players Oxford United have had since they moved to the Kassam Stadium, Burgess could be brilliant on his day, with his vision, range of passing and long-distance shooting.

But he was also infuriatingly inconsistent, as he proved last season.

For the first three months he was arguably the best player in the Nationwide Conference, but after Christmas he couldn't even get in the U's side.

He was one of the highest-paid players at Oxford.

And although manager Jim Smith said on occasions he didn't really want to lose him, he was also keen to generate money for other signings, which was why Burgess was placed on the transfer list a couple of months ago.

Smith should now be able to strengthen his squad by signing triallists Michael Standing and Arthur Gnohere, who are likely to be offered short-term deals.

Rushden were able to afford Burgess partly by offloading experienced striker Leo Fortune-West. earlier in the day, the veteran striker having his contract cancelled by mutual consent.

Burgess was a key member of Diamonds' rise up the leagues under Brian Talbot and made more than 200 appearances for them before joining Oxford in January 2006, along with fellow Rushden player John Dempster.

He made 46 starts plus 11 sub appearances for United, scoring seven times, earning a call-up for the England National Game XI.

Smith said: "It's disappointing to me that we couldn't get more out of him. But he's gone home and that suits him, and it suits us in terms of the wage cap.

"We'd already talked about doing something with Michael, and Arthur."