JAKE LIVERMORE is tonight expected to resume his Hull City career after a failed drugs test with manager Steve Bruce proclaiming: “It is like having a new signing.”
The 25-year-old’s future was thrown into doubt towards the end of last season when a random test revealed he had taken cocaine.
Livermore was suspended by the Tigers and, under Football Association rules, could have been banned for up to two years.
However, when the governing body’s disciplinary committee met earlier this month to rule on the case, the former England international escaped a ban due to what were seen as “exceptional circumstances”.
The FA felt Livermore’s case was worthy of compassion as the failed test had followed the death of his new-born child in May, 2014.
Livermore, who admitted a breach of the FA’s anti-doping regulations, had struggled to come to terms with the tragedy, the disciplinary hearing was told.
A possible return to action in tonight’s Capital One Cup third-round tie against Swansea City was discussed with the £8m signing from Tottenham Hotspur at training yesterday afternoon and Hull’s chief believes Livermore is ready.
“Jake has been working extremely hard and has now been with us for eight to nine days,” Bruce told The Yorkshire Post. “The good thing is that Jake is a naturally fit boy.
“It is also not as if he has been recovering from an injury or anything like that. His body has been fine.
“Throughout the time (away from the club), he was in the gym and he was also on a training programme. He stuck to that.
“Of course, it is never the same when training on your own. Nothing can replace playing and training with your team-mates. But Jake has worked so, so hard and it has been great to see him come back into the squad.
“In many ways, he is like having a new signing – and one that has come in at just the right time. Let’s not forget how well Jake played in his first season with us.
“He did so well that his form persuaded us to go out and spend a lot of money on making the move permanent (in the summer of 2014).
“Jake is still a young lad and the experience of what happened will make him stronger. I think he is ready.”
Livermore’s return against the Swans seems most likely from the bench.
His last competitive action for the Tigers came against Burnley on May 9, two weeks after the failed drugs test in the wake of a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.
The result of the test was not known until the following week and Hull responded by immediately suspending the player.
It meant he missed the final two games of last season as Hull slipped out of the Premier League.
Now, though, everyone at the KC Stadium is determined to look forward – starting with tonight’s likely return to first-team duty.
Livermore will be one of several changes to the 18 who were involved in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Queens Park Rangers as Bruce prepares to rotate his squad.
This means likely starts for Ahmed Elmohamady, Chuba Akpom, David Meyler, Isaac Hayden, Shaun Maloney, Ryan Taylor and Greg Luer against the 2013 League Cup winners.
Bruce said: “We have had a tough schedule with all the travelling but this is an important time and, to me, this is a great opportunity to play the players who need to play.
“Lads like Ryan Taylor haven’t had much football. Then there is Jake, obviously, and the likes of David Meyler and Shaun Maloney who are pushing to be involved.
“Even if I had wanted to go with the same XI, to me it makes sense to make changes. Swansea is our fourth game in 10 days and if I had a criticism of us on Saturday against QPR it was that we looked quite leggy at times.
“We’d had a tough week with all the travelling to Brighton and Cardiff. That can take it out of even the fittest players, as recovery time is so short.
“We huffed and puffed on Saturday but just didn’t have the sharpness needed to win the game.
“It will be a strong team that I put out, as the aim is to win and get through to the next round.”
Hull lost both league games against Garry Monk’s men last season, a 1-0 home reverse shortly before Christmas being followed by a 3-1 loss in south Wales on April 4.
The Swans have enjoyed a promising start this time around in the top flight with a weekend goalless draw at home to Everton leaving the club seventh in the fledgling table.
“Swansea are a very, very good Premier League team now with bags of quality,” said Bruce about a side that beat York City in the last round.
“I am sure they will make a few changes but don’t forget they won the League Cup a couple of years ago so they will want to go on a run. It will be a tough game.”
Match preview: Page 18.