Premier League Career: Wigan Athletic (2005-2006), Fulham (2006-2009), Hull City (2009-2010)
Jimmy Bullard was one of the funniest footballers in the last 15 years. You could always see the passion he would have for the game and also, his determination to have a bit of fun whilst doing it. He figured for Wigan Athletic, Fulham and Hull City and has also had a spell in management with non-league side Leatherhead since retirement in 2012.
A West Ham United supporter as a boy, Jimmy was signed by the club in 1999 after some non-league appearances with Gravesend & Northfleet. However, he never managed to make the breakthrough at Upton Park and was given a free transfer two seasons later. He rebuilt his career at Peterborough United, scoring 11 times in 66 appearances, before being snapped up by Wigan Athletic in January 2003 for £275,000.
He helped Wigan secure promotion to the Premier League in 2005 and became an important figure in their debut season in the top-flight. Bullard scored a late winner in a 2-1 success at West Bromwich Albion in September and struck another three goals, including a goal against Arsenal. His antics became almost as common as his play on-the-pitch. In a match against Everton, he famously leapfrogged a pile of players in a goalmouth scramble, resulting in him falling on his face!
Fulham were impressed by Bullard’s performances and triggered a clause in his contract which saw the Cottagers’ pay Wigan £2.5 million for his services in May 2006. He made an instant impact, scoring goals to rescue a point at home to Bolton Wanderers and a free-kick winner to overcome Sheffield United. Sadly, he sustained a dislocated kneecap in the club’s next match away at St James’ Park. He would be on the sidelines for a minimum of nine months with cruciate knee ligament damage. The injury would ultimately keep him out of action until January 2008. A month later, he scored a brilliant free-kick to defeat Aston Villa and his joy was crystal clear. He even hugged referee Chris Foy at the full-time whistle which just showed how happy he was to be back on the football field.
Bullard’s performances in the second half of the season were a crucial part in Fulham escaping relegation on the final day. Despite starting 2008-2009 in arguably the best form of his career, negotiations over a new contract stalled and in December 2008, the west Londoners decided that Jimmy could surprisingly leave the club. A month later, he joined Hull City for a club-record fee of £5 million.
In an interview with the BBC’s Football Focus shortly after his arrival, Bullard said: “I didn’t feel I had the backing from the club, so I felt like it was time to move on. I felt like Fulham didn’t want me and it was as simple as that really. I was in talks with Fulham over a contract and I was told I’m not getting a new contract and I can leave in January.”
He made his Hull debut a week after his arrival against West Ham but sustained further knee damage in that match and this ended his season prematurely after more surgery. After a nine-month absence, he returned to the Hull squad and made an immediate contribution, scoring twice against the Hammers’ in a 3-3 draw and striking the equalising penalty in a 1-1 draw with Manchester City. He famously imitated Hull manager Phil Brown’s on-pitch team talk from the same fixture the previous season in his celebration which luckily went down well with his boss. Another knee injury was sustained in the next fixture against Aston Villa which kept him out for eight further weeks and it became clear the supporters were getting frustrated with his constant injury absences. Hull ended the season in the bottom three and were relegated to the Championship.
Jimmy was one of the club’s highest earners and with the debt piling up; he was allowed to leave that summer. However, his wage demands put many teams off, as well as his injury record. A loan move to Celtic collapsed and he stayed at Hull until January 2011, when he joined Ipswich Town on-loan. He eventually retired from football in October 2012 after a very brief spell at Milton Keynes Dons.
He moved into management in the 2016-2017 season, spending a year with Leatherhead. He won 19 of his 47 matches in charge but resigned at the end of the campaign. Since retirement, Bullard has been a regular on our TV screens, appearing in ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ in 2014. He is now one of the three main hosts on the Sky Sports Saturday morning magazine show, Soccer AM.