Jimmy Bullard can now be found trying his hand at presenting on cult football TV show Soccer AM on a Saturday morning. However, he was a far better player than his ‘cheeky chappy’ persona would infer.
He also wasn’t averse to hard work and made it to the Premier League the hard way after starting his career in non-league football before being signed by West Ham for £30,000 in 1999. He had by no means made it at the top however and was released after a season having not managed a single appearance. A move to Peterborough followed and after two years, in 2003, he was signed by Wigan Athletic. It was here that Bullard, and the club, would get their first taste of the Premier League with Bullard’s 10 goals from central midfield helping the Latics to secure promotion ready for the 2005/06 season.
Once Bullard had made it to the Premier League he quickly became something of a cult hero. He was always seen having a laugh and joke and with a smile on his face as he played, never taking himself too seriously just like now in his TV role.
There are two incidents for which Bullard is perhaps best known. First for an incident with notorious Everton hard-man Duncan Ferguson, where after Ferguson had punched a Wigan defender and got a red card Bullard, who recently admitted that he went over because he ‘loves the drama’, can then be seen looking up at ‘Big Dunc’ and laughing before jokingly saying “I’ll see you in the tunnel”. He would regret this, with the Scottish striker waiting in the tunnel for Bullard for the remaining 15 minutes of the game.
The other incident is a goal celebration that has gone down in Premier League folklore. In the 2008/09 season Hull found themselves 4-0 down at half time away at Manchester City. To the shock of the the players and fans alike, Hull manager Phil Brown didn’t let his players go back to the dressing room but instead gave them a dressing down on the pitch. A decision which he was widely criticised for. Fast forward a season and Hull are 1-0 down at Manchester City. Bullard converts a late penalty to equalise and what followed was a moment that secured his Premier League cult hero status. Bullard stood in the middle of his teammates who sat circled around him and pretended to give them a talking to, as Phil Brown had the season before. It could have been taken badly by Brown but after the game he said that “It was a fantastic celebration. Great comedy is all about timing”.
As well as Wigan and Hull, Bullard played for a strong Fulham side in the Premier League and earned himself an England call-up, although he never made it onto the pitch. His debut Premier League season with Wigan included a trip to Wembley in the League Cup final but the Latics were well beaten, losing 4-0 to Manchester United. A technically gifted player with an eye for a long range goal, Bullard ended his Premier League career with 15 goals and 11 assists. Despite only playing 90 Premier League games, Bullard more than left his mark.