Shaun Wane has assured Sam Tomkins he expects “nothing” from him.
And he refused to put a timeframe on how long it may take the full-back to get back up to speed.
Tomkins, fit after a knee operation, is set to face Hull FC this Friday night in his first Wigan game since the 2013 Grand Final.
Wane plans to play him for around 50 minutes but has yet to decide whether to start with him or introduce him from the bench.
Either way, he is prepared to show a lot of patience with the 27-year-old. Wane said: “It means everything to have him back – he’s one of the best players in the world. But I’m expecting nothing from him; if he goes through this game with a couple of nice touches and gets back into it, bearing in mind it’s his first game in a long time.
“He came round to my house for tea and I mentioned I expect nothing.
“He’s going to be a great asset long-term but I need to give him time to bed back in. He’s not going be rushed by anyone at this club.
“I wouldn’t like to say how long it will be because he might kill it on Friday, although it might be two months. I don’t want to put a timeframe on it, but I know I’ve got a great player back with us and it’s great for the game he wanted to come back to his hometown club.”
Former Man of Steel Tomkins was Super League’s most marketable star when he left for New Zealand Warriors, and Wane knows the focus of Friday’s televised match will be on his talented No.1.
He said: “Even with a guy as confident as Sam is, there’s a lot of pressure on him and you could see him physically become relieved when I said I don’t expect lots. He’s trained with some real full-on sessions so I’m confident he’ll come through physically.
“I’m expecting a nice, calm performance from him with the small details on point. I’m not expecting tries or man of the match awards or anything like that.”
Tomkins suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury early last year and, after a spell of rest, played on until the end of the year “half-baked”, in his own words.
“He’s had a major operation and he wasn’t right in New Zealand: it wasn’t how we’d have treated him,” said Wane. “We’ve got a superb medical team and there was never going to be any rush. I explained to him that he’s under no pressure for quite a few weeks. I want him to feel comfortable and not like he needs to prove anything.
“I don’t know how their medical team works but I know it’s very different to what we do here: we’d have dealt with it differently. I’m happy with our medical staff and confident in them, and I know his leg is a lot more stable now. He’s under our wing again and we’ve improved him, they can do whatever they want over there.”
As well as getting up-to-speed, Wane says Tomkins needs to adjust to changes to Wigan’s style of play.
“Since Sam left we play differently - I know the experts on Sky don’t say that, but we do,” he added. “John Bateman has taken on a big role for us, Lockers has a different role in the side and people on the outside may not recognise that. Sam has got all that understanding to come in the flow of a game, and I’m sure he’ll be okay with it all.”