Just a small number of years ago this week’s forgotten man could have threatened Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s title of being the ‘most electrifying man is sports entertainment’. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration as his fame was never global and he was only really known across Great Britain and Ireland, but nevertheless Jimmy Bullard was one of the most entertaining footballers to play the game. Over the last few years he has really moved away from the limelight forcing people to wonder, where has Jimmy gone to?
There was a lot more to Bullard than entertainment, he was a very talented footballer and while he was a latecomer on the big boys’ scene, he played an important role for a number of Premier League clubs. His career ended prematurely which was unfortunate for both Bullard and the game, as he had a lot to offer both on and off the field of play. His very quick exit from the game really makes people think what ever happened to Bullard’s career? There really were two sides to Bullard; the character and the footballer.
Jimmy Bullard spent many of his early years as a lower league footballer and the club where he spent most of his time was at Wigan Athletic. Under the famous ‘watch Wigan’ years, they made their surge to the Premier League with Bullard being one of their most important players. Wigan’s run from Division 2 to the Premier League was a massive achievement, with Bullard being one of their driving forces on the field. Wigan’s rise to prominence also saw Bullard’s entertaining acts become more noticeable, with the Sky Sports programme Soccer A.M often highlighting some of his antics.
It was when Wigan and Bullard reached the top tier that he showed both his ability to play, and to entertain the public. In terms of entertainment, his stance next to Duncan Ferguson was a highlight. Wigan were playing Everton when Ferguson had received a red-card, Bullard stood in front of Ferguson not knowing whether to laugh or run away in fear of receiving a backlash from the Everton striker. His leapfrog over a bunch of players who were part of a goalmouth scramble was another classic Bullard moment. These actions shouldn’t take away from what he and Wigan achieved on the field. In their first season in the top flight Wigan finished 10th and again Bullard was at the heartbeat of the team.
That summer Fulham triggered a clause in Bullard’s contract that saw him move to the London club. He had a good start to his Fulham career with some noteworthy late goals from free-kicks and penalties.
A knee injury struck Bullard and he never really seemed to recover as his career passed him by. He moved to Hull City after three injury-hampered years at Fulham and didn’t have a huge impact, although one of his most entertaining moments did occur in a Hull jersey.
Hull were relegated that year and the purchase of Bullard was seen as giving them a bigger chance of surviving. Recurring knee injuries led to poor performances, but it was a 1-1 draw at Manchester City that Bullard will mostly be remembered for. Hull were 1-0 down when Bullard equalized from the penalty spot. The previous year, Hull manager Phil Brown gave his half-time team talk on the pitch in front of the Hull supporters, embarrassing his players for a poor performance. When Bullard scored, all Hull players sat around in a circle with Bullard acting as manager telling the players off. It was probably Bullard’s last notable action as a player, and possibly his funniest.
His last two clubs were Ipswich Town and MK Dons, but Bullard’s career finished very quickly and he slipped out of the spotlight, forcing people to forget about the lovable character. It’s easy to remember Bullard the character, but Bullard the player was a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately his knee problems got the better of him and he went from being a competent top-level midfield player to a forgotten man of football in the space of three or four years. He will always be remembered in certain ways, but overall Bullard could be classified as a ‘forgotten footballer’.
Check out his antics here:
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Nick (originally posted to Flickr as Jimmy Bullard) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.