HIS career could have been over, his reputation permanently damaged. Now, Ross McCormack is back in familiar surroundings and on the road to recovery once again.

The striker will put his stats up against anyone and defend his record, whether it be at Cardiff, Leeds United or Fulham. It is his character that he has had to guard in recent times, however.

The tale of how McCormack missed training at Aston Villa due to faulty electric gates at his home is now infamous. He reckons Steve Bruce, his then boss, had it in for him, though.

“There was something massive that happened before that,” McCormack says as he reflects on his career and the breakdown in his relationship with Bruce at Motherwell’s winter training camp in Tenerife. “That’s what disappointed me the most because, no two ways about it, he hung me out to dry with that.

“I was going to be late. But I would have been in on time. Everyone at the club knows that.

“The gate problem is real. I never said I wasn’t coming in. I just said I’m running a little bit late.

“The next thing, the headlines. I think it came because Villa were 2-0 up at home to Preston and conceded two late goals. Being clever, he probably tried to shift the blame on me.

“Which is fine but, in the process, as I said, something big happened before. Going down that route publicly was probably not helpful.”

That episode was the final chapter of his Villa career. A £15million move from Fulham looks to have been the beginning of the end of his time in England.

Bruce insisted he wouldn’t pick McCormack again unless his fitness and his attitude improved. The Englishman admitted himself he had never publicly shamed a player in that matter before.

The damage had been done long before then, though.

“I don’t think it was a personality thing,” McCormack said. “I think it was personal. A lot of things had been said.

“It didn’t happen instantly. A lot of things I will keep to myself for now.

“Looking back, I actually started his first game in charge so it wasn’t as if he has just come in and said ‘I don’t fancy Ross’. I’m not sure if I started again after that.”

McCormack freely admits that he left Craven Cottage too soon and, if he had his time again, he probably wouldn’t have switched Championship clubs in the summer of 2016.

The outburst from Bruce ensured there was no way back for McCormack at Villa. It could have had longer term reputational damage but the striker reckons his record speaks for itself.

“What I say to people who don’t know me and listen to people who say I’m a bad egg or whatever is that I was club captain at Fulham and club captain at Leeds,” McCormack said.

“That was about four years in a row. Have you ever me a club captain who’s a bad egg? Me neither.

“And the stats. The stats back it up. Until I went to Aston Villa I was scoring X amount. It just didn’t happen there. That’s it.

“I have seen it happen with loads of players. They get frozen out and leave. It just feels there was a little more needle in mine.”

A loan spell to Nottingham Forest took McCormack away from Bruce and Villa but he had to head to the other side of the world to really recover from the chastening experience.

Stints at Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners have done just the trick but life away from his family ensured the 32-year-old could never really settle Down Under. That won’t be a problem now that he is back at Fir Park.

“I’ve got a lot to prove to myself because confidence has been on the floor in the last couple of years,” McCormack said. “Coming here is a good chance for me.

“The kids will get to see me play. If I didn’t come back to Scotland now, it would have been harder in the summer.

“Before you know it, you are having to see out the rest of your career in Australia and the kids never see me play again. That was a major factor.”

It was during his time with the Mariners that McCormack became a footnote in the headlines in October. They belonged to a certain Usain Bolt on that occasion.

The fastest man on earth may have failed to earn a deal in the A-League but he made an impression on a player that probably thought he had seen it all in the game.

“The best thing about how was that he was a humble guy,” McCormack said. “He would come and have coffee with the lads like he was anyone, really.

“I have never seen anything like it. I have been with John Terry or Barry Ferguson in Glashow and a lot of people recognise them.

“If this guy walks down the street, the full street chase after him. But he was such a nice guy and gelled well with the boys.

“I set him up for his first goal. He used his pace well! He was a good guy. He could have sat on the beach chilling but he had a go.”