Belfast Telegraph

Jake Livermore realises distant dream with return to England squad

Jake Livermore admits an England recall was a "distant dream" during his darkest days and wants to give something back to others in troubled times.

Livermore was a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate's squad to face Germany on Wednesday and Lithuania four days later, having earned his solitary cap five years ago.

Since he last wore the Three Lions the 27-year-old midfielder has experienced the trauma of his newborn child's death, testing positive for cocaine in May 2015 as he struggled to deal with the loss.

Having avoided a two-year ban - his unique circumstances taken as mitigation by the Football Association - Livermore rebuilt his career, first helping Hull win promotion to the Premier League, then earning a £10million January move to West Brom, where his displays caught Southgate's attention.

"I never thought I'd have the opportunity to represent my country again, the longer it goes the harder it seems to get," he said.

"I wouldn't have thought it would come, it was in my distant dreams. To be honest it wasn't overly in my thoughts, it was more just wanting 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. Hopefully I can do myself, my country and them proud.

"Having this opportunity to repay them in any way, shape or form is like a dream for me."

Livermore, softly spoken off the field but a tenacious competitor on it, is also keen for his legacy to be about more than just his personal struggles.

"Football always helped me very much because it was a platform for me to propel my life, really," he said.

"I have got children now and it's something I want to be able to look back at - a football career - and show them something that they can be proud of their dad for rather than what they may read instead."

Livermore remains grateful for the support he received at his own low ebb - be it the from Hull, whose then boss Steve Bruce took his duty of care with the player to heart, or those who heard his case - and wants to be there for others in future.

He was, for example, quick to make contact with Bournemouth's Harry Arter when the Irish midfielder's daughter was stillborn in December 2015.

"I think he's conducted himself brilliantly and I'm over the moon he's now out the other side," said Livermore.

"I did reach out to him and say if there was any point he needed me. We became good friends after that.

"Everyone has their own story and everyone will be opened up to different opportunities or temptations.

"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."

Livermore also made a personal visit to his old school, Enfield Grammar in north London, to work with pupils of his former teacher David Alder.

"There were a few children in the excluded unit section, where they are taken away from the other kids," he explained.

"My teacher asked me if I could sit and talk with a lad who was also very talented at football. I just 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, but it's for a good cause. When people need you like I needed someone, I want to be a person who can help someone else.

"Hopefully the young kids - and it's not just kids, it's any professional in any walk of life - can take something away from this. The opportunity to play and represent my country will hopefully enhance that."

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