Jake Livermore last played at Wembley in the FA Cup final of May, 2014. It was, in his own words, a happy time. His partner went into labour the following day.
Exactly 12 months on, news broke that the Hull City and England midfielder had tested positive for cocaine.
He faced a two-year ban.
The outside world reacted with predictable disdain, for this was a millionaire footballer caught out, indulging in Class A drugs.
The truth, however, was unknown to all except those closest to him. The little boy, who was also named Jake, had died during birth.
In April last year Livermore — and his partner Danielle — sat through the harrowing details of an inquest in which it was heard that their son’s death was avoidable. A legal case is ongoing.
Days later, a depressed and desperate Livermore took cocaine. He was locking away the pain. The key to unlocking it proved to be the positive test.
‘It was like getting out of prison, people finally knew there was something not right in my head,’ the 26-year-old tells Sportsmail ahead of his return to Wembley in the Championship play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday.
‘It was completely out of character for anything that I have ever been about.
‘Finally I could be myself instead of putting on a brave face 24/7 — at home, at work, getting a coffee, at the shops, you’re constantly trying to be someone you’re not and show emotions you’re not really feeling, because as soon as you shut your front door you become the broken man you actually are.
‘So for me, it was a relief. The drugs were irrelevant. It could have been drugs, a gun, a car crash or whatever, the self-destruct button was the problem.
‘The way in which (his death) happened made it difficult to fight my own demons.
‘If you lose a child in God’s hands it is completely different. To find out why he had died, that was too much for my head and my heart to take.
‘That pain and hurt, it makes you do desperate things. I wasn’t thinking of the consequences.
‘I love my family more than life itself. You take that out of my life and you’re basically taking away me as a person. And that is what happened, I lost myself.
‘I was broken. Most people out there will have a son, a nephew, a little brother.
‘I could not deal with the loss and the circumstances of it, as well as the pressures of everyday life and trying to keep my team in the Premier League. If I was thinking with a cool head I would have asked for time off. But I didn’t want to let anyone down, I just looked at it as another injury I could play through.
Happier times are where Livermore finds himself today.
His partner gave birth to a baby boy, Jayce, earlier this year and his son joined him on the pitch following Hull’s final game of the season.
Livermore was inundated with messages of congratulations and well wishes on social media. ‘That restored my faith in humanity,’ he says. ‘You’d be surprised how much a little moment like that can lift you.
‘That will never leave me, that feeling of taking him from the tunnel and walking him around the pitch. That’s a moment I will never forget, but it is one I should have had two years earlier.’
It was two years ago that Hull were beaten 3-2 by Arsenal in the FA Cup final.
‘But I’m hoping Wembley can be magical, it has the power to do that. I’m hoping I can come full circle — from feeling guilty and to blame for failing to keep my team-mates and myself in the Premier League to having my setback and then coming back to help us win promotion.