IN five years together at Tottenham, Michael Dawson got to know Jake Livermore very well.
So, when it comes to assessing the impact the midfielder has made since returning from the suspension that followed a failed drugs test, the Hull captain is probably as good a judge as anyone.
“It is like having a new signing having Jake coming back,” said Dawson ahead of what is arguably the match of the day in the Championship as second-placed Birmingham City head to the KC Stadium.
“Not just on the field, but off it as well. He is a character, a lovable character. So, having him in and around the dressing room is massive.
“He has been a breath of fresh air. On the pitch, the energy and drive he gives you is huge. The miles he covers is ridiculous.”
The bare statistics of the five games in which Livermore has featured since returning in last month’s Capital One Cup tie with Swansea City are revealing.
Three wins – including a Premier League scalp in the Swans – and two draws are testament to the impact he has made, as is the improvement in performance during those five games.
Certainly, the midweek demolition of Ipswich Town means the Tigers go into today’s tough assignment in buoyant mood.
If Hull are to follow up that win, Livermore is going to have to play his part against a side well-drilled and organised in defence and that has pace to burn in attack.
That ability to break at speed through Clayton Donaldson and Demarai Gray means Livermore’s own mobility will be tested.
“If there’s one player who doesn’t need to do a full pre-season then it is Jake,” said Dawson.
“He defies logic. We were running our you-know-whats off over in Portugal (during pre-season), getting fit. Yet, Jake has been back for a month, with a two-week intensive pre-season, and he is in great shape.
“He is a fit lad and the one player who can manage missing pre-season but not really show it.”
Livermore’s failed drugs test came towards the end of last season and he was immediately suspended by Hull. He admitted the charge at a subsequent FA disciplinary hearing but was allowed to resume his career after it was revealed that he had turned to the drug when battling against depression following the death of his new-born son, Jake Junior.
“I am not surprised by how well he has done since since coming back,” added Dawson. “Not at all. Speaking to him while he was away, he told me he was keeping himself fit.
“Of course, the one thing you can’t replicate is match fitness but he is back up to scratch and he is hungry. His performances have shown that.
“The miles he is covering (in matches) is just ridiculous. Plus, he has only been back four or six weeks so I am sure there is more to come.
“He is creative and maybe doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for that. But his passing and the range he has got shows he is a top player. When you know him, he is a character you can only love to have around.”
Hull are unbeaten in six league games and also face Leicester City in the Capital One Cup fourth round on Tuesday.
Today, though, represents a big test of the club’s burgeoning promotion hopes with Birmingham arriving as one of the Championship’s form teams.
“Teams want to come and beat Hull City,” added Dawson, in his second season at the KC. “The players we have got, on paper, are players who have played in the Premier League, who have played at high standards in their careers. Teams are looking at us and wanting to beat us.
“We have to deal with that and handle the expectations. But the players and the quality we have got in the dressing room – and with the manager and his staff –shows we know what we want to achieve this season.
“We also know what the Championship is all about and how hard it is. Birmingham are in a good run of form and will come to the KC full of confidence but it’s a big incentive for us to move ahead.
“I’d say we are on track. Brighton are flying at the top. They have scored a few late goals and they are six points ahead but, for now, we are just concentrating on ourselves. There is no point looking around at other teams because there’s an awful lot of football to be played.”
Dawson’s brother Andy was famously part of the Hull side that won three promotions in five seasons to reach the Premier League.
The current Hull captain’s honours include England caps and cup triumphs with Tottenham, but he admits following in his elder brother’s footsteps would be something to savour. “You can talk about the achievements in my career but last season was the lowest point. To bounce back at the first attempt would be a massive honour for me. That is the aim and our goal as a club.”