SAINTS boss Ralph Hasenhuttl calls on press and supporters to “give Jack Stephens time” as the defender returns to training following a hamstring tendon injury.

The 27-year-old centre-back hasn’t featured for Saints since mid-September, when he limped off in the first-half at the Etihad Stadium, following what turned out to be knee tendon damage, during the 0-0 draw with Manchester City

But the Torpoint-born ace, who was in top form before his injury, was pictured back in team training this week after he had returned to individual training on grass before the international break.

However, Hasenhuttl has all-but confirmed that this weekend’s visit to Liverpool’s Anfield will come too soon – urging those in attendance to give him time to continue his recovery.

Speaking ahead of the match, Hasenhuttl said: “He’s back in training, yes, the first week for a long time.

“This is good for him, good for us – whether he is ready for the weekend I’m not sure but it is good that he is back.

“At the moment it is quite tough to come into the 18, we have a lot of alternatives in this position at the moment and I think after one week of training, coming immediately back I think take a little bit.

“Normally I try to give them a little bit more time to come back onto the pitch because we are still taking care of him this week, not doing everything that we normally do.”

He added: “Give him time, there is no reason to hurry or rush.”

Hasenhuttl has the luxury of being able to ease players back into Premier League action due to the increased size of this season’s squad.

During the closing stages of last campaign, this is a luxury that the Austrian would not have been able to afford with stars of the smaller unit being struck down and academy youngsters forced in in their places.

The emergence of Mohammed Salisu this campaign has ensured that Stephens’ absence hasn’t been too hotly missed.

Saints enter a busy schedule with three games coming up in seven days, with the trip to Anfield and then two home contests with Leicester City and Brighton, and will no doubt need the reinforcements to be fully fit.