Jimmy Bullard: From fitting cables to England, Ipswich Town and the Jungle...
From Ipswich Town to ‘I’m A Celeb’, fishing, football and fun. Jimmy Bullard enjoyed a colourful football career. In a Kings of Anglia interview with HENRY CHARD, he explains more.
“Can you hurry up with this interview as I’m more interested in reading this,” says Jimmy Bullard as he looks at his latest copy of the Angling Times. He’s joking – well at least I think he is.
When approached to do this interview for Kings of Anglia, it seems Jimmy misheard and thought it was Kings of Angling!
He’s a keen angler, but loves his football just as much.
Bullard was one of those players you couldn’t help but love watch.
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We now live in an age where boys are picked up at three years old, well, eight years old, and almost live like professional footballers all their youth.
Bullard was one of the old school, fitting cable and working as a painter and decorator at the age of 20 before he was picked up by the club he supported as a boy, West Ham United, while playing for Gravesend & Northfleet in non-league.
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Another non-league star, there are so many still undiscovered.
“Fitting cable was my first gig and I had my own van for six months and used to earn a good living,” he says.
“But the job went boom and the van was taken away from me and I had to go on the brushes, I also went in for a fireman’s gig. Painting was all I had really but that gave me good money to earn a living and play my footy.
“I worked with my dad and it allowed me to go and play for Gravesend. He’d give me days off just to go and play and that helped me.
“It was weird, as I was still playing for Gravesend & Northfleet and was a West Ham fan, still had claret and blue on my walls at home, and then Roger Cross, who was an assistant under Frank Lampard Snr came up to me and asked me if I wanted a trial at West Ham.
“I was like, ‘West Ham?!
“He said “Yeah, Chadwell Heath 9 o’clock be there with your boots.”
“I signed a three-year pro contract two weeks later, the same day as Paolo Di Canio.”
Moves to Wigan and Fulham followed before an England call-up and a big money move to Hull.
Although English by birth, Bullard has a German grandmother and was therefore eligible for the German national team
“We heard England might come calling so I told my agent to get it in the press that I was German and it might turn Capello’s head and it did!,” he said.
“But Capello hardly spoke to me. I thought ‘who is this character who looks like Postman Pat who had picked me but didn’t want to talk to me?’ I tried all sorts to get on, stretching in front of him, almost touching his Italian suit. ‘Come on get us on!’”
But no caps came.
However, Bullard’s stock was continuing to grow and a £5m move to Hull should have been a fantastic time for him, but more knee injuries hampered his time at the KC.
After a frustrating spell up north it was Ipswich Town that offered Bullard a new lease of life, as a loan move proved fruitful for both parties as his curly locks lit up Portman Road.
He scored five goals in 16 appearances on loan in 2011 and won the supporters player of the year before signing a permanent deal. He looks back fondly on his time in Suffolk.
“I loved it at Ipswich,” admits Bullard.
“He (Paul Jewell) played me just off the front two allowing me to go where I wanted and I was in my element, back with my old manager. I scored goals, got on the ball and made the team play.
“I signed a contract after that for two years but he put me as a sitting midfielder.
“I felt it killed me, I don’t play sitting and I never have in my life. He was like ‘we have got Keith (Andrews) and Lee (Bowyer) bombing in the box.’ My role changed massively and the fans were expecting me to score and I was stuck sitting.
“The year went on and we lost eight games in a row and something had to give and he dropped me. I went in to speak to him and told him to play me in the hole and I could make a difference,
“I think he thought my legs were going but I was one of the fittest in the team. I could beat anyone apart from Lee Martin in the bleep test.
“Me and Paul had different ideas and I fell out with him.
“I had one year left and he told me I could go two weeks before the end of the season.
However, the Suffolk countryside certainly made an impact on Bullard as he immersed himself in the local golf courses and fishing lakes and says he was as happy as he has ever been, while at Portman Road.
“I loved my time in Suffolk,” he adds.
“I played a couple of the local golf courses and it was great for fishing. I didn’t have a property in Ipswich, I stayed with (Michael) Chopra who was a lunatic but we had such a laugh.
“I loved my time at Ipswich as much as any time at any club but I didn’t feel a massive part of the club because, firstly I was on loan. Then I signed and it didn’t go to plan but it could have been so good.”
Bullard retired from the game after a short spell with MK Dons but if you thought that would be the last of him in the spotlight, think again.
Bullard has dipped his finger in several pies since, and he entertained the nation in 2014 as he entered the Australian jungle in ITV’s hit reality series ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here’.
Then it was onto non-league management.
“I was still thinking football, football, football and the Leatherhead chairman phoned me and asked me if I fancied it.
“Leatherhead was only round the corner and I wanted to get back into it because I have a way of playing, even on the football pitch, I do it my own way.
“I wanted to see if you can put that philosophy into non-league.
“My whole way isn’t about winning it’s about the style and I did it. Some games we were so good and there were games we didn’t turn up but my style was out there, you could see that was a Jimmy Bullard team. They were second from bottom when I took over and we were comfortable in mid-table by the end of the season.”
Bullard is now host of a football podcast called the Magic Sponge, where he, Rob Beckett and Ian Smith talk to footballers past and present about the dressing room antics they have experienced in their career.
The fifth series of the Magic Sponge airs this month.
This is part of an interview with Jimmy Bullard in the current Kings of Anglia magazine, where the full interview is published. KOA is on sale at WH Smith in Ipswich, Tescos and many other newsagents in Suffolk. Also available at the Archant Suffolk offices, Portman Road, Ipswich.
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