Resembling a lovechild of Albert Steptoe and Sally Gunnell and with the hair of an abandoned rag-doll Jimmy Bullard was a springy, spritely midfielder who livened up any team he played for.
He was instrumental in bringing Wigan up into the Premier League but it was at Fulham where his energetic displays took him to the periphery of the England team and though he was never capped, with the immoveable axis of Lampard and Gerrard ahead of him, there was no shame in that.
It was also during his spell at Craven Cottage that Bullard suffered cruciate ligament damage to his knee, an injury that reoccurred on his debut for Hull and understandably took some zest and vigour from his game for the remainder of a career that drew prematurely to a close yesterday. The announcement of his retirement at the age of 33 was met with sadness by all supporters but also a smile for Bullard was a rarity in the modern game – a player who had a laugh. He enjoyed every aspect of being a footballer and was as popular with rival fans as he was with his own. Jimmy may not have won any trophies in his professional career but that alone is one hell of a legacy right there.
It could be argued that his self-deprecating humour and jokey demeanour means that his talent will always be under-appreciated to an extent but having interviewed a Manchester United player last week (an interview so mind-numbingly dull we have yet to publish it) and seen close-up the vacant absence of personality or life in the eyes it brought it home to me how modern players just aren’t…normal. The money, pressure, and exaggerated adulation and criticism has resulted in them seeking protection in blandness.
Bullard evidently thrived on being a normal lad living an exceptional lifestyle and for that football will miss him terribly.