Bruce shocked over drugs scandal as Hull teeter on brink

Hull City manager Steve Bruce during the Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce during the Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.
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STEVE BRUCE admits to still being in a state of shock over Hull City midfielder Jake Livermore testing positive for the use of cocaine.

The former England international is facing a lengthy ban from football after failing a drugs test in the wake of last month’s victory at Crystal Palace.

Hull were informed of the result last Tuesday night and Livermore was suspended by the club ahead of Saturday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur, where defeat nudged the Yorkshire club closer to the drop. Both club and player are now awaiting the results of a second sample provided by Livermore, the first of two players to become embroiled in a drugs scandal in 24 hours after Sheffield United’s Jose Baxter tested positive for ecstasy and suspended by the League One club over the weekend.

On Livermore, Bruce said: “We go on all sorts of courses and seminars to be football managers but there are certain things where you haven’t got any experience to deal with it.

“It has been the most difficult 24 to 48 hours I have had to deal with in 16 or 17 years (as a manager). I couldn’t quite believe it and I am still in a state of shock now. I understand the severity of it and Jake will have to face up to the consequences.

“You can’t fail a drugs test now and get away with it, not with the way it is. They (the drug testers) have been to our club something in the region of 15 or 16 times. It is so high-profile now and rightly so, we are talking about a player who has taken a social drug which is just ridiculous.

“As the head of the club, except the chairman of course, I think I am within my right to express our huge disappointment, frustration and anger at the whole situation.

“It is certainly a situation where nobody wants to confront it. Jake knows that he’s let everybody down and he’s let himself down.

“I am not going to be the judge and jury, that would be wrong of me, but I am obviously disappointed in him. The consequences will be laid out in the next few weeks.

“I haven’t had the conversation (with chairman Assem Allam) but knowing the owner like I do, he will want to do the right thing. That is vitally important. Whatever that right thing is, people have their own opinions.

“When I have the conversation with the owners I have certainly got my own thoughts but, at this moment in time, the authorities can do their job and see where it ends up. “

Asked if Livermore, who could be banned for two years, had offered any explanation when informed of the news ahead of training last Wednesday, Bruce replied: “The hearing will happen.

“I am sure there will be a lot that comes out of it as to the reasons why. It is not for me to be the judge and jury.

“We just have to follow the procedures that are in place. We have got to go down the road of second samples, writing to the FA, the hearing and all the rest of it.

“My reaction? I was shocked, saddened, disappointed, angry. All of those things. Why wouldn’t I be? I can’t come to terms with it if I’m honest.”

Captain Michael Dawson declined to comment in the wake of Saturday’s defeat about Livermore but defender James Chester admitted his own sense of shock at the turn of events.

He said: “It is a difficult situation and not a situation I ever thought I would see in football. The club say procedures are going on and I can’t say much more than that.”

Asked if the City squad felt let down by their team-mate, Chester replied: “No.

“We see Jake every day in training but you never really know what is going on with people away from the club.

“It is difficult to criticise when you don’t really know what is going on.

“There are procedures and I am sure Jake will feel the penalty of what will come. I never thought I would see this situation in football.”

Livermore’s suspension badly disrupted Hull’s plans for the clash against his former club, not least as he would have played.

Bruce, however, refused to use the scandal as an excuse for a 2-0 defeat that leaves Hull needing to beat Manchester United on the final day and hope Newcastle United or Sunderland slip up elsewhere.

The Tigers manager added: “I couldn’t have asked for more from them so I don’t want to make that excuse (Livermore’s ban). I warned them of that before we played.

“As far as I was concerned, Jake wasn’t available.

“To a man, they were terrific. They are shocked, sad and disappointed, probably like the whole of football.”

On City’s scrap for survival and the echoes with 2009 when the club stayed up despite losing to Manchester United on a final day that also saw then manager Phil Brown infamously sing on the KC pitch after the game, Bruce added: “We have got to beat Man United and I haven’t done that in 17 years.

“I have got to turn the tables. Maybe there is a twist in it. Maybe Man Utd owe me something after wrecking my knee, my hip and my ankle.

“I do remember that day (in 2009). And I won’t be singing, that’s a promise! This time, though, we have to beat them. We will prepare as best we can. They have hit form of late and let’s hope we can produce a performance like we did at Spurs.”

Match report: Page 3