Steve Bruce admits he and his staff at Hull City could have done more to help Jake Livermore and should have realised he was ‘in a dark place’ before he tested positive for cocaine.
The 25-year-old has been spared a ban after an independent FA commission took into account the death of Livermore’s baby son, Jake Jnr, as a mitigating factor.
Livermore tested positive for the banned substance in April, days after an inquest failed to resolve questions about his child’s death.
The midfielder – who returned to training this week – had been suffering from depression, and manager Bruce says he should have noticed his player was not himself.
‘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,’ said Bruce.
‘Talking in hindsight, all of us, me, my staff and my medical team, could have done more.’
Bruce added: ‘I spoke to Jake and some people will never forgive him and he understands that.
‘He’s made a mistake, he’s apologised and he wants to get back to a part of his life which he wants to do – playing professional football.
‘The mitigating circumstances have led the FA commission to their decision and we have to respect that.’
Livermore could now return to action within a fortnight with Hull bidding for promotion back to the Premier League.
Bruce explained: ‘He only came in yesterday (Thursday). He was popular among the squad. We’ll assess how he is.
‘He was delighted to be back as you can imagine. He’s 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.
‘In this macho industry of alpha males, people don’t want to ask for help. Sometimes it takes a bigger man to ask for help and I think Jake has realised that. We all think we're Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tarzan and it's not the case.
‘I’m sure the vast majority of supporters will welcome him back, as we’re a stronger squad with him in it.’ Livermore has one England cap and Bruce, who signed him from Spurs for £8million last summer, said: ‘He was on the verge of the England set up when we signed him and that’s the challenge he’s got to get to get back to.
‘I wouldn’t have paid the money I paid for him if I thought he wasn’t what he is.
‘He did a beep test yesterday and about 80 per cent of the squad stayed behind to see how he did. He’s a very popular member of the squad’ he said.