Football’s better now than it was back in the day, right? Faster, more skilful, better pitches, increased fitness. I think we can all agree on that. But if there’s one thing that modern football suffers from, it’s the fact that too many of today’s players are programmed to tow the club line. How often do we see interviews with footballers in which they’ve stated the flipping obvious and given hardly any insight into the game? Yes, I know, too many. 33-year old Jimmy Bullard wasn’t normally one of these types of players – cheeky smile, entertaining nature and generally played the game of football like it was a kick-about with his mates.
Sadly, Saturday afternoons will be without the chirpy Cockney, as he’s been forced to hang up his boots following continuous injury problems with his right knee. Summer just, Bullard signed for League One club MK Dons but unfortunately only managed to turn out three times for them, resigning himself to cutting short the career that he wish he could have prolonged. Speaking recently, he stated: ‘In the summer, I knew I wanted to give it one last crack and show people what I could do.
But what I think with my strong head and what I could physically do are two different things’. His tenure at the top has been halted but that doesn’t mean to say he hasn’t seen it all in his career; starting out as a youngster at non-league Gravesend & Northfleet, Bullard worked his way up the divisions and found Premier League gold in an eight-club, 14-year career.
From Gravesend he moved to his local club West Ham United but wasn’t able to break into the first team, so a move to Wigan Athletic via Peterborough United followed. It was at Wigan were the midfielder played most of his football in a three-year spell, signing on when the Latics were making waves in the Championship and then lending his hand (well, feet) to guide the club to the top flight in 2005. The transition from non-league to the top successfully completed in a six-year spell.
His energy levels, combative nature and positive approach on the pitch mirrored Wigan’s refreshing brand of football in their first year of Premier League football. And who could forget some of his daft antics on the pitch? During a goalmouth scramble in one game, he leapfrogged a pile of players landing flat on his face – simply for a laugh! And one other particular occasion he shot big Duncan Ferguson a real look of terror when the feisty Scotsman had laid out a Wigan team-mate.