Kenny Jackett today warned Wolves fans not to expect Jamie O’Hara to start churning out 90-minute performances immediately.
The Molineux head coach admitted O’Hara’s first-team return will be carefully managed as he builds towards full match fitness after not playing any first-team football since May.
O’Hara is set to be included in the squad for tomorrow’s first-ever visit of Stevenage after he was an unused substitute in last week’s 2-1 win at Bradford and taken off the transfer list this week.
The £5m midfielder has played a full 90 minutes several times in the Under-21s, but with three games in the next eight days – Wolves go to Carlisle on Tuesday before travelling to Oldham in the FA Cup a week tomorrow - the 27-year-old will be eased back at League One level.
“The good thing is there are quite a few midfield players around so if Jamie starts, then I have the people around that can replace him as substitutes, or if he comes off the bench, that time can help bridge that gap rather than him playing 90 or 95 minutes every game straightaway,” said Jackett.
“We’re looking at six players in central midfield – Lee Evans, Kevin McDonald, David Davis, Jack Price, Dave Edwards and O’Hara – so there are combinations.
“He’s very good on the ball; he moves it very well and the play goes through him.
“I also think if you sit off him, he can produce the killer pass to produce a goal.
“Getting up to speed with his physical conditioning is his challenge.”
O’Hara made 20 Championship appearances last season after making his comeback from hernia surgery on Boxing Day.
But the first five of those were as substitute, although he managed 90 minutes in the FA Cup defeat at Luton in between.
Jackett said: “It does take a while get fully match-fit.
“Going back into last season, he came back after quite a bad injury, but the team and the club needed him in that situation.
“I don’t know whether he produced his best or was completely match-fit last season – you’d have to ask him.
“His challenge now is to transform what is a good body weight and good body fat content into being match-fit.
“He’ll have a high motivation level to try to overcome the fact he hasn’t played any games this season and it’s a challenge he can do.”