Thursday 19 October 2017

Livermore scripts positive ending to once-tragic tale

Jake Livermore trains alongside his England teammates. Photo: REUTERS
Jake Livermore trains alongside his England teammates. Photo: REUTERS

Jason Burt

'It's almost a dream from where I was," says Jake Livermore of being called up by England after what manager Gareth Southgate described as the player's "incredible journey". His story is also tragic, poignant and hugely inspirational.

Livermore has gone from facing a two-year ban for testing positive for cocaine to the revelation of the reason for his taking the drug - dealing with the death of his son, Jake, during childbirth - to rebuilding his life, family and career and, now, being part of the England squad again five years after he earned his only cap.

Crucially, he has also become a mentor for young people who need help. "I've been into different clubs and youth teams, just seeing old managers," Livermore explains. "If they've got any young hot prospects who may have other outside influences, it's nice to be able to help someone and give something back because, when I really needed it, I was fortunate to have that with the FA and my club."

He also visited his old school, Enfield Grammar in north London. "I went to see one of my teachers, who was very supportive throughout, as they all were," he explains. "There were a few children in the excluded unit section, where they are taken away from the other kids. My teacher asked me if I could sit and talk with a lad who was very talented at football. I told him about my experiences and how you have to stay focused. Things can always come full circle and be better. It's not easy, the whole scenario [of giving talks], but it's for a good cause. When people need you, like I needed someone, I want to be a person who can help."

Livermore continues: "There's been a few others since... Harry Arter at Bournemouth [whose daughter was also stillborn]. He's conducted himself brilliantly and I'm over the moon he's out the other side. I did reach out to him and say if there was any point he needed me. We became good friends after that."

Livermore received help himself. When he tested positive, in May 2015, there was inevitable disdain and the presumption that a millionaire footballer had simply been caught out behaving badly. The 27-year-old was suspended and it had looked like he had tossed his career away. But that September, an independent FA panel ruled that the loss of his son was the overwhelming cause for his drug use. The true story came out, and he was allowed to return to play for his then club, Hull City, helping them return to the Premier League.

"I just wanted to get back into club football and put a positive spin on my career, for my friends, for my family and those who stuck by me - the FA among them," he explains. "Having this opportunity to repay them is like a dream for me."

It has been a surreal season on the pitch. He started the campaign with managerless Hull, who had just 13 players, and had to fill in at centre-back before securing a £10m move to West Brom. "My main focus was keeping Hull in the league and then, after moving to West Brom, propelling them up the league."

His England cap, which he hopes to add to in the friendly against Germany and then Sunday's World Cup qualifier at home to Lithuania, came as a substitute in a friendly victory over Italy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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