Steve Bruce is hoping Sheffield Wednesday striker Fernando Forestieri can play “with a smile on his face” after being cleared of racial abuse.
The 29-year-old striker was cleared of making racist slurs towards Mansfield Town’s Christian Pearce during a pre-season friendly last year, when he appeared before Mansfield Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Now Owls boss Bruce is hoping Forestieri - back training this week after a season upset by injuries and suspension - can help Wednesday gatecrash the Championship play-offs.
They travel to Stoke City tomorrow, and with just eight games remaining, sit two points outside the top six.
Bruce said: “It’s been hanging over him and I’ve picked up the pieces of it in the last six to eight weeks that I have been here.
“Looking at it from afar, did it really have to go that far and go to court and all the rest of it with all the cost involved? I’m not so sure it did, in my opinion, warrant going to court and the money that that has cost for something which was dismissed handsomely.
“However, let’s hope we can just get on with playing the game now and see Forestieri at his best.
“It has been hanging over him for a while - no matter how tough you are and what you are, you go into a court and people are accusing you of something, it’s not easy just to dismiss. I hope it takes the weight off his shoulders and he goes and enjoys himself.
“Certainly when he’s playing with a smile on his face, he’s a good lad. I’m sure it is [playing on his mind] to a degree, it would happen to us all if you were faced with a court hearing of course it would be.”
In a statement, Forestieri said: “I am very pleased with the verdict reached today by the district judge at Mansfield Magistrates Court to acquit me of the public order charge brought against me.
“I was surprised and very disappointed that the Crown Prosecution Service brought a charge against me in the first place given the circumstances of the incident and the evidence which was used to form the basis of the charge.
“I have strenuously denied the charge from the outset and I have now been vindicated by the decision of the judge.
“The last eight months have been a difficult time for me and my family. I now wish to put the matter behind me and focus on my football.
“I would like to thank my family, friends, everyone at Sheffield Wednesday and in particular the fans together with my legal team for the support they have given me throughout.”
Forestieri has not played since being substituted in the Steel City derby on March 4, but is in contention to feature tomorrow, along with fellow forwards Lucas Joao and Gary Hooper - two other strikers on the comeback trail after injury - but Steven Fletcher is a doubt.