From starting out at Gravesend and Northfleet, to an eventual conversation with Germany boss Jurgen Klinsman, Jimmy Bullard’s career was inventive, unpredictable and endearing, much like his personality. Consequently, when given the chance to interview such a character, or even just sit and discuss his career, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d say no.
From stories on Capello, to a potential return to the MLS, its easier to just let Jimmy do the talking.
And where better to start than the headline,
Jimmy Bullard : What a story that was. Basically, my Nan is German, so my agent, when I was coming on in my career at Fulham, said to me that England aren’t having a sniff so do you want me to go and put it out there [in the press] that you qualify to play for Germany?
And I was like hang on a minute, as if Klinsmann is going to call me, you’re miles away, whats the matter with you? But anyway he said I’ll get it out there you never know. He put it out there and got himself a bit busy in the press and then England came calling 6 months after, it was classic, and he used to always say to me “I told you” and I said it wasn’t to do with that, it was because I was whipping them into the top bins at that time.
Lucas Arnold : But I had to ask, did you ever have dreams on playing one-twos with a certain Michael Ballack?
Of course if Germany had come calling I would have gone, it would have been brilliant, but I never put myself in that bracket anyway, I see it more as an achievement just to get called up [for England], I was in awe while I was there and I think that held me back as well, when I reached Premier League that was the pinnacle. When I was a kid my aim was to always play in the Premier League, once I reached that it was hard for me to change my state of mind to start thinking I was going to play world football.
It was never really in my head and all of a sudden I’m in there with Beckham and Rooney and the ball is pinging about and I’m like, this is ridiculous, a ridiculous pace, and I was only there for 2 weeks and it took me a bit of time to feel like I belonged there. But I do remember coming back and I was twice the player, I came back to Fulham and I was on fire, It [England] was quicker and it gave me that extra belief that I’m world elite, I need to kick on, there’s another step here, when does it stop? How far can you go?
Something that did answer those questions however, was a certain ligament in Bullard’s knee.
I did my knee twice, it’s not nice, you’re watching all of the others train and you want to be out there, but you’re on a medical bed.
Did you ever think you weren’t going to get back?
Yeah it was half way through my rehab and I didn’t really do the training on my leg and my leg wasted away cos I was off it for 2 or 3 months, and I’m not the biggest bloke anyway, but there was nothing there, and I had to build it back up. I really grafted hard for 6 months and I came back as strong as I ever played for that little period – until I done it again.
How do you think your career would have changed without the injuries?
I cant really answer that because If I did, I’d be lying, I’d be guessing, but I never played for what I would call a huge club. I had the chance to go to Celtic later on in my career – I never played for them and that may have held me back, that is one question I ask myself, but I had such a good time and sometimes its not where and who you play for, its the timing of it and who you are with at that time and how you enjoy it. To put that question how I would like it, I don’t think I would have bettered my time with anyone else, I had a great time with the boys I was with, that’s how I would look at it really.
What happened at Celtic?
I went up there with Neil Lennon for three, four days, lovely bloke and a lovely club they looked after me well. But [the deal] just wasn’t right for me, plus my misses was pregnant, plus I wanted to play in the Premier League, and even though Celtic were in the Champions League, it was right 50/50, one of them, I was up there for 3 days and Neil Lennon must of thought that I was driving him crackers. And that was also the end of Hull. When I come back they didn’t want nothing to do with me, so that upset the whole feeling, the chairman, but it’s my decision you know. I didn’t understand why the club got cheesed off, well actually I did, because they had to take me back.
And when talking about career paths with Jimmy, its hard not to suggest a big return to the MLS…
I reckon The Bulldog could play over there to be fair, Pirlo is having a good time because it’s just so slow. [After a moment of serious consideration] But I just don’t like the travelling and obviously I’ve got the show now as well (Jimmy Bullard Kicks Off).
What about a spell in the dug-out? Fancy yourself as a manager Jimmy?
It’s in me, I definitely want to one day, but at the minute I’m concentrating on my TV career.
Jimmy’s new show, which he claims to be the first step of a long career in TV, will undoubtedly include a lot of his stories, so I asked him to share a few. And might not be surprised to see how many involve Fabio Capello.
The older I got the more outrageous I got, the more brave if you want. David Bentley, he was classic, the Fabio Capello one, that was classic – when he said Postman Pat to his face. Also Bent’s other one, [on England duty] he got the ball bag, shuffled the bag out, it was the first session with England, he’s gone under the bus and launched the bag out right in front of Fabio and he’s just run out and started kicking balls onto the bar, like 50 yard zingers, and Fabio’s like David, David, David, your hamstring. And he was like don’t worry Fabs I haven’t pulled a hamstring since I was 13 and just carried on zinging balls around, this geezer didn’t care.
He didn’t give one thought, this boy cracks me up, [Fabio] said can I have three wingers out there, three wingers out there, Beckham Young and another went out on the pitch and Bentley went out as a fourth and Capello went “Oh no David we already have 3”, and Bentley went well send Becks back then, he ain’t in my league for christ sake. He had the rawness and the ability. He was mad, all the stuff he done with Harry, he’s just a fella I really like. During the 3 days I was with England he ordered MacDonalds, got security guards at both ends of the team corridor and he still got it sent up with his mate. Not one air of bother with him, its brilliant, and thats what England were missing, they were missing that Gazza mentality. And that’s why he gave up football Bents, he said it’s all getting too politically correct, it’s all ridiculous, I’m not going to do it.
A lot of people are worried about upsetting the club or the chairman instead of just being themselves, being honest, having respect yeah, but still tell it how it is sometimes.
So obviously I had to ask more about Fabio Capello…
- He’s very hard to get on with because he doesn’t speak English, it’s so broken. I was there two weeks and he literally says, “Hello, you Bullard, and you good golfer”. And also on the pitch he said dont run forward too many times, thats all he said I swear, and I was like, this is bad coaching, Rooney said the same in his documentary. Telling us to go up together and back together, I need a bit more than than Fabs. Come on we’re in England son, but no one would say nothing and thats where Bents would go ‘whah Fabs come on a minute. Is that all we’re getting?’ Everyone couldn’t wait to get away, its awkward and it shouldn’t be like that you know? But he’s managed Juventus and all that, but I honestly think, and this isn’t me sticking up for him, but I think it was the language barrier, he really did not know how to speak English.
Any other managers tickle your feather?
Roy Hodgson I didn’t get on with personally, but he’s a football man and his football management was good, probably one of the best I’ve had.
But on a completely different note, Jimmy had been boasting about his “zing” throughout the whole interview, so I had to ask, during his time at Hull, who had the better shot, him or Geovanni?
He was so good, he had a great zing, I don’t like saying this because I held myself in that department, there weren’t a lot of departments, but the fitness bracket, I was in the top elite, pure running I used to run the most in the PL, that’s actual fact on paper, that’s not just me giving myself a big head. I’d say I also used to put myself up there for free kicks and zings but there wasn’t a lot else I had.
But when I saw Gio, I thought, this lad has got a zing on him, he just used to fire it in, he was good, to be fair I think he had a bit better of a zing that me I’d say.
And to round the interview off, Jimmy also mentioned a few other players he held in such high regard, and gave a bit of parting advice to a certain Lionel Messi.
Paolo Di Canio was unreal, he was a joke, some of the stuff he did was unheard of.
Rio [Ferdinand] was another one used to train in first gear, come Saturday he had a second, third fourth gear, but he didn’t need it. If someone used to tackle him in training he was like get off, it was embarrassing. It must have been so nice, I used to say to him ‘if I were you Rio I would play in fifth gear all of the time and take liberties and score hat-tricks from centre half’. He was that good, I used to believe he could score a hatty every game, just running through them all.
And Joe Cole, growing up as a kid, he was the best I’ve ever seen. But I’ve always said with Joe, if he got an injury, where he’s such a jinker, as soon as he got a knee injury he would struggle, its like Messi, if he ever done his knee he wouldn’t come back the same player because his movement is so powerful and sharp, as soon as you stretch a ligament it’s not the same, so he needs to be careful not to do that.
Jimmy Bullard was talking to promote his new TV show ‘Jimmy Bullard Kicks Off’, which starts at 7pm tonight on London Live.