DURING a career in management that stretches back the best part of two decades, Steve Bruce has had to contend with all manner of problems and headaches.
He had early warning of the often unpredictable travails that come with such a pressurised role in his early days at Sheffield United, not least during one of the most controversial FA Cup ties of all time when Marc Overmars scored an infamous goal for Arsenal at Highbury.
Even a wily campaigner such as Bruce, however, continues to learn on the job as he has admitted over the handling of Jake Livermore’s failed drugs test.
The 25-year-old this week escaped a suspension when a Football Association disciplinary committee found the “exceptional circumstances” of his case were worthy of compassion.
Livermore had battled depression in the wake of his new-born child’s death in May, 2014 – something that the governing body felt had “severely impaired” his judgment when turning to cocaine.
The midfielder returned to training this week but will not be considered for selection until he has completed a rigorous fitness schedule.
“I spoke to Jake and some people will never forgive him and he understands that,” said Bruce ahead of today’s trip.
“He has made a mistake, he has apologised and he wants to get back to a part of his life which he wants to do – playing professional football.
“He was delighted to be back as you can imagine. He has been through a lot. We hope he can get over all the problems he’s been suffering. Just because you’re a professional footballer, doesn’t mean you won’t have problems.
“The vast majority of supporters will welcome him back, I’m sure, as we’re a stronger squad with him in it.”
Bruce was critical of Livermore in the wake of his failed drugs test after Hull’s 2-0 Premier League win at Crystal Palace in April.
The Tigers manager, however, was not aware of how Livermore’s mental health had deteriorated following the tragic death of his daughter and accepted he could have offered greater support.
“Sometimes managers are in the dark a little bit,” admitted the former Manchester United defender.
“Last year I said to my staff, ‘There’s something not quite right with Jake’. I feel I let him down a little bit. I should have realised he was in a dark place.
“Talking in hindsight, all of us, me, my staff and my medical team, could have done more. You never stop learning in management. The biggest part is dealing with individuals; we’re all different.”