Jimmy Bullard: Where Did it All Go Wrong?

Brian RhodesSenior Analyst IJuly 26, 2010

HULL, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Jimmy Bullard of Hull City shows his dismay after Nicklas Bendtner of Arsenal scores the winner during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on March 13, 2010 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The national image of Jimmy Bullard as the jocular funnyman of English football, is in wild contrast, and sitting at odds with the impression he is giving the management, board and the faithful of the Tiger-nation, in East Yorkshire.

When Bullard arrived in a record-breaking deal from Fulham, the talismanic midfielder with a never-say-die attitude and a sense of humor that had lit up the Premier League, with Wigan and then Fulham, was just that, and a great fillip for the club. His signing for £5 million, was hailed as a giant coup for the East Yorkshire outfit.

The rumors of £45,000 a week in wages and the uninsurable nature of his injuries did not put off the then chairman, Paul Duffen, from smashing the club's record transfer fee on the England fringe player.

Bullard had tried to extend his contract at Craven Cottage, but with his injury record, the London club were unwilling to give Bullard the three year deal that he craved. With the contract negotiations stalling, Hull City stepped in.

It is rumoured that Bullard had gone into contract talks with Duffen with the main aim of getting an extended three year deal, on the same wage as he was on in London, a reported £15,000 a week.

When he asked Duffen what he was offering as a package, it is alleged that Duffen offered £45,000 a week for four and a half years, with an added bonus for every 15 games played. It can only be imagined that if this was the case then Bullard took little persuading that Hull City was the club for him if they could offer such great deals, for a player that was uninsurable.

For Hull City and Jimmy Bullard the marriage got off to an inauspicious start, with Bullard unable to start straight away due to an existing injury. His first outing for the Tigers lasted 33 minutes against his boyhood favourites West Ham, before sustaining another injury to his knee that would put him out until mid-October of the next season.

At this time many fans could only feel for the man. A great talent, who through no fault of his own was suffering cruelly from an injury-blighted career . They only hoped that he would make a full recovery and show what he had been brought to the club to do.

He did just that, in a fantastic six-week period that saw him drive the Tigers from a mediocre start to a spell of eight points from a possible 12, in November and winning himself the Barclay's Premier League Player of the Month Award.

However, his renaissance wasn't to last. In an aerial challenge at Villa Park against Aston Villa, Bullard landed heavily on his other knee and was out for another four months.

With his return came even more expectation on his shoulders. The side had been struggling for points, and it was hoped that he would start off as he finished in November, but it wasn't to be.

In the intervening period the mood of the Hull City fans had gone from one of pity for their fallen, and unlucky hero to one of disdain for a player that had accepted the clubs money to be a regular on the physio's table.

It wasn't just the extended time on the injury list but the rumors of scuffles and binge drinking in local bars, that slowly saw the tide turn for the once popular Londoner.

It was also alleged that Bullard was advising young midfielder Tom Cairney in his contract negotiations, which lead to a spat with Hull City legend, Nick Barmby in front of the local Women's Institute whilst on a training run that demonstrated that Bullard's influence in the Hull City dressing room was also waining.

When he returned to the first team, with the club desperately needing his undoubted talents, he was clearly not his usual ebullient self. He was hiding from tackles and off the pace of the game. It could be argued that after his injury, he just needed time to get back to the pace of the game, but the feeling in the stands was that he was too afraid of receiving another injury.

After only 13 full appearances for Hull City in a season and a half and five goals, Bullard was dropped from the first team. It was now that the rumors about the 15 game bonus came to light, and with the club in serious financial difficulty, the overpriced Bullard would not be given more of the clubs money.

During this period, his close friend and golf partner, Phil Brown, was relieved of his duties as Hull City manager as well. The same happened to the man who signed him, Paul Duffen.

With a new Temporary Management Consultant, Iain Dowie and Adam Pearson, back in the Chairman's hot seat at the club, Bullard's allies were no longer around to protect him from the fans' growing anger.

After failing to survive the relegation dogfight, the Tigers brought in a new manager in Nigel Pearson after a successful spell in charge of Leicester City, but again with the club having serious financial concerns, it was necessary for the club to off-load the higher earners from the payroll.

Steven Moyokolo, Dean Marney, and Steven Hunt have been sold. Jan Vanegoor of Hesselink, George Boateng, Bernard Mendy, and Geovanni have left by mutual consent, but the clubs highest earner and biggest stumbling block for reinvestment for the club's playing staff, Jimmy Bullard, has still not moved on.

Many at the club have taken huge pay cuts to help the cash-strapped club, such as Kevin Kilbane, the veteran Irish international who halved his wages to help the club through this difficult period in its history.

Despite this, there has been interest in Bullard from clubs, with Celtic reportedly ready to offer him a place at Parkhead next season on a year long loan deal, with Hull City paying a portion of his wages. They were reportedly willing to pay him £20,000  on top of the Tigers paying him a portion of his salary.

However, it is reported that Bullard wanted Hull City to pay his full wages of £45,000  plus Celtic's paying £30,000, which both clubs baulked at, with Hull City's Adam Pearson, calling his demands, "ridiculous." 

So, where has this left Bullard? The expensive player has claimed that he does not want to leave the club, as his family is happy and settled in the area, but he is unwilling to take a reduction to his wage demands, which are seriously hindering the Tigers' rebuilding efforts.

New Tigers boss Nigel Pearson has his hands tied, with no chance of more new signings unless the club can off-load Bullard. When asked about this, he told Sky Sports, "We'll have to wait and see what happens further down the line. The window is open for quite a bit longer yet, so there's a lot that can happen.

"We'll re-evaluate that nearer the time, but until that arises, I think we're all pretty clear where we're at."

As it stands, Bullard is not training with the first team, and has not taken part in any of the club's preseason friendlies. Whether this is a precautionary measure to prevent more injuries for the club's benefit or prospective buyers, is unclear.

The prospect of him demonstrating his phenomenal talents in the amber and black of Hull City may not be what many Hull City fans want after this summers avarice. Added to this is the prospect of every Championship hardman looking to target him, the chances of him remaining injury free for very long seems very unlikely.

Adam Pearson with an eye to the start of the season that is under two weeks away said, "Perhaps Celtic will speak to Jimmy again and try to get the deal back on.

"We will see what happens in the next three-to-four weeks before the transfer window closes.

"However, if we come to the start of the season, and he is still here, there seems little sense in paying somebody £45,000 a week to just sit in the stands."