Jimmy Bullard Could Return for Hull City in Relegation Clash with the Hammers

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Jimmy Bullard Could Return for Hull City in Relegation Clash with the Hammers
Jed Leicester/Getty Images

The little magician that is Jimmy Bullard is set to make a sensational return for the Tigers as they travel to Upton Park for what is bound to be a real relegation six pointer.

With dodgy dealing Portsmouth all but relegated, they should be deducted nine points on Mar. 1 and placed into administration, the significance of this game cannot be underestimated.

Both Hull and West Ham sit only one point above the dreaded drop zone with only goal difference separating the two sides.

The difference, however, could be their walking wounded returning to action and no-one can underestimate the importance of Bullard for the Tigers.

Having been out injured for the last 11 weeks with his second serious injury since moving to Hull from Fulham, the midfielder from East Ham will be looking to put one over the club he supported as a boy. However, his last match in West Ham in January 2009, his Hull debut, ended with the injury that kept him out for 10 months.

Bullard has only played five times since recovering from that career ending injury, but it is worth pointing out that Hull did not lose any of the three games he started. His most telling performance coming in the 3-3 draw with West Ham at the KC Stadium where he scored one and set up another before initiating the move for the third.

It is somewhat strange that the East End club have become so intrinsically linked with his Hull career over the last 14 months, and six games, three of which will have been against West Ham.

Should the likeable midfielder return to action he will be joined by George Boateng who had his ridiculous red card rescinded. The duo make a formidable partnership in the Tiger engine room, and if Hull really have any ambitions of winning this match they will first have to win the midfield battle with West Ham's powerhouse Scott Parker.

Hull will definitely be without the inspirational Ian Ashbee and Geovanni as well as their little Algerian striker, Ghilas.

For the Tigers, the trip to West Ham will represent a real journey into the Lions Den. Hull have only won once in 75 years of travelling to Upton Park, a 2-1 win in 1990...and they are now 18 games away from home without a win, they have also failed to score in seven of the last nine away matches.

But why are records there if not to be broken?

For their part West Ham have a strong spine but very little outside that. Hull will need to exploit the wide positions while Boateng contains Parker.

Supply to Ilan and Cole from the Hammers rampaging full backs will need to be cut off, but swift counter attacking into these spaces could provide the key to getting in behind Matthew Upson at the back. Stephen Hunt will have a major role in cutting off West Ham's attacks while initiating Hull's.

While they may be favourites to avoid the drop, West Ham are not too good to go down and Hull's Dutch striker, Jan Vennegor of Hessilink (the coolest name in football) has declared that Hull can provide a big upset.

"West Ham have always been a good footballing side with great players," he said. "Anyone from Europe who hears of West Ham, knows them as a good Premier League team.

"They like to play entertaining, attacking football and go about things in the right way.

"But last season if you had said Newcastle could get relegated, no-one would have agreed with you. But they did go down and when that happens, there can be no excuses.

"You might not expect to see some of the big teams get relegated, but when it happens, it happens for a reason.

"It's too easy to say you are too good to go down and if you start thinking that, then you are in big trouble."

"From 12th downwards, it's incredibly close," said the former Celtic hitman. "We hope we can take the pressure off a little big by winning at Upton Park.

"I have to say, I've not been in this situation before at any of my previous clubs. It's a similar kind of pressure to going for trophies.

"The only difference is that you are at the opposite end of the table. You know you have to go out and win whether you are chasing trophies or fighting relegation.

"The pressure is always on you to find those wins. It's not a case of stumbling around, that's for sure."

Phil Brown has matured massively as a manager this season, and is confident that his team can produce yet another great escape.

"The experience we have from last year stands us in good stead," said the Hull manager.

"People talk about the top end of the division and how Manchester United are in a good position because of the experience they have.

"It's the same at the bottom half of the division and if you've got players who have been through it before, it can only be a positive.

"Going into the business end of the season last year we were short of experience at this level. It was the unknown, but now we know a little bit more about it."

"We can take something from every game where belief is concerned because we know we're going in the right direction.

"You would have to say no side in the bottom half is safe."

The experience Brown picked up last year could be key to Hull surviving, and in that area the Tigers have the advantage over Gianfranco Zola and his happy Hammers.

 

 

 

 

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