Things are very rarely simple at the K.C. Stadium, not while Phil Brown is there. Back in January, he raised eyebrows when he paid £5 million for the effervescent Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard. Not that there is any doubting the quality that Bullard offers, but that a player who had suffered so much from a bad run of injuries could be worth such a punt for a team that were in free fall at the time.
Bullard has been the most under rated midfielder in the Premiership since he arrived with Wigan Athletic for the 2005-2006 season. Gasps were heard when Capello called him into the England squad for the matches against Andorra and Croatia, but it was no real surprise to any one who looked further than the big four for footballing kudos. Capello knows exactly what this bubbly, infectious player can offer your team.
Brown quite rightly realised that if he had a player of Bullard’s quality at Hull City, then regardless of the misfiring front line, the Tigers would be harder to beat and have a player who can drag and drive a team on to victory. Of course, much was made of Bullard’s dodgy knee, especially when it went in his debut for the Tigers, but Brown has wrapped him in cotton wool since that incident and the benefits can finally begin to be seen in the Tigers recent performances.The magic hands of Dr. Richard Steadman seem to have once again worked a surgical miracle on another damaged knee in the Premiership.
Bullards career is one of those true life stories of a lad who failed to make the grade in his teens and fell in to non league football, before signing for his boyhood idols. The difference with Bullard is, that he managed to climb back twice. West Ham United signed him in 1999, but released him on free transfer two years later and Peterborough United picked him up. Under the tutelage of renowned diamond polisher, Barry Fry, Bullard once again climbed up the league ladder after joining Wigan Athletic, then Fulham.
If their is one characteristic that Bullard has in spades, it is determination. To seize a chance on the second time of asking is almost immeasurable, but add nearly a two year lay off through knee injuries and you see the size of his grit. He is a player that needs to be involved, to be the fulcrum of a side that needs a bit of quality and fight adding to it.He never gives up, never stops running, spray’s passes all over the place, he oozes quality.
Hull City already look a better side with Bullard now cemented in the heart of the Tigers midfield. He knows he owes Phil Brown for taking a risk that ultimately may have blown up in both their faces and that will benefit both player and manager. Bullard has been to the top and fallen down the ladder once. When that happens, you try everything in your power to avoid the same fate occurring.
With a World Cup at the end of this season, occasionally someone breaks in to the squad or gets picked against the grain such as Gazza in 1990 or Owen in 1998. Or a squad player gets an opportunity to fill in for a more illustrious player and seizes that chance with both hands, such as Trevor Steven and Paul Parker in 1990. England will probably take 8 midfielders to the World Cup next summer and right now 5 of those places are up for grabs.
Of that only Barry, Lampard and Gerrard will probably be definitely in at this precise moment, with Lennon and Wright-Phillips vying for the right wing but one of Capello’s strengths is that he judges the player on their ability, not the postcode of the team they play for. Bullard could earn the right to go to South Africa next June if he can continue to show the qualities he injected in to Hull City’s side so quickly this season.