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Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard suffering

last updated Friday 04th May 2007, 8:21 AM
  Jimmy Bullard  
Jimmy Bullard

For someone as hyperactive as Jimmy Bullard, watching from the stands as Fulham struggle to cling to Premier League status has been almost as painful as the knee injury which ended his season after four games.

Bullard stepped up his rehabilitation work this week, jogging on a treadmill for the first time since rupturing knee ligaments and dislocating his kneecap in September.

Knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman described the injury as one of the worst he had ever seen but Bullard hopes to be fit for the start of next season and promised not to leave Fulham even if they are relegated.

"I owe Fulham a lot,’ said Bullard. They paid for me to go and see Steady, and backed what I wanted to do.

"It would be bad of me to knock them out of the window if we go down and say: 'See you, I’m on ’ my way'. I want to play for Fulham for as long as possible. I love it here."

He added: "You feel a sense of guilt being injured. The lads are getting a battering from the gaffer and you’re standing there in the changing room and it doesn’t feel right.

"You just have to walk out. There’s nothing you can really do about it."

Bullard has seen all Fulham’s home games, apart from when he has been in the United States for treatment and surgery.

He will be at Craven Cottage on Saturday hoping to watch them beat Liverpool and take the pressure off their last game at Middlesbrough a week on Sunday.

Sitting still is a problem for the livewire from east London. On a photo-shoot in Amsterdam this week, he passed the time by interrupting a TV interview with Hearts keeper Craig Gordon until he was in the interviewer’s seat, asking the questions himself.

"Are you signing for Arsenal?" he asked Gordon mischievously.

On a pre-match walkabout with chairman Mohamed Al Fayed before last month’s draw with Blackburn, Bullard found himself in the vicinity of a stray ball.

Egged on by the fans, he couldn’t resist, clipping it gently towards goal with his left foot, and then received an earful from an angry physio when he made his way off the pitch.

"Believe me, there’s been some hard times," he said. "But there’s a lot of people out there a lot worse off than me.

"I went to see Steady and I’m sitting on the bed with my head in my hands and in comes a fella with no legs.

‘" didn’t get talking to him but he seemed happy enough. You realise you’re lucky after all. I’m going to be back playing, I know I am. It’s a year out of my career but I know I’ll get that back further down the line."

Jamie Redknapp put Bullard in touch with Steadman. The two footballers had been on the golf course together, talking about Redknapp’s dodgy knee and Steadman’s handiwork, just two days before Bullard suffered his injury at Newcastle.

Steadman has salvaged the careers of several big name players including Michael Owen, who returned to action for Newcastle this week after tearing his cruciate knee ligaments at last year’s World Cup.

Owen said his knee felt stronger than ever after his comeback at Reading. Thanks to the pioneering work of Steadman in Colorado, an injury which used to spell the end for players no longer carries the same threat.

Bullard said: "Steady has this aura about him. He looks a bit like a wizard. When I was first in the room with him, he turned the lights off and he was feeling my knee, trying to feel pulses and stuff.

"It’s weird but he’s obviously got something. You just have total trust in him.

"I’ve never been a fan of hospitals, needles, surgery but with him I’ve let it all go and said do whatever it takes to get me back.

"He just said: 'We’ll get you back'. And I know that he will."

Bullard has overcome disappointment before — rejected by Millwall as a teenager because he was told he was too small and freed by West Ham two years after they signed him from Gravesend and Northfleet — and he has a healthy habit of looking on the bright side.

"I’ve had a whole year to work on my strength and give it a real crack in the gym," he said.

"I’ve got so much power in my body now, I’ll be back with thighs like Arnie. I feel mentally fresh. There’s none of the little nicks on your ankles and you’re not doing all the travelling.

"I’ve always thought I’m a late developer. I still haven’t stopped growing and I’m still going to put a few more kilos on.

"I don’t think I’ll be fully matured and hitting my peak until I’m 30. That’s what my dad’s been saying since I was 17 and he’s always been right about me throughout my career.

"When I went to West Ham, I was 19 but I was in a 15-year-old’s body. My dad told me to treat it like a YTS even though I signed as a professional, so it wasn’t a big setback mentally when I stepped down to join Peterborough."

Bullard appears to have a talent for almost anything he turns his hand to. He is a scratch golfer, who is tempted to turn professional when his football career ends, and his injury has allowed him to devote more time to his flourishing angling career.

He has joined Daiwa Dorking, England’s top team, where he is winning top-class matches and reputedly has the potential to represent his country.

There lies another reason why he does not want to leave Fulham and his Surrey home.

He said: "I’d like to go as far as I can with it. Joining Dorking was like signing for a new football club. I was struggling to get to sleep at night, looking forward to the fishing.

"It seems silly but, when you get wrapped up in it and it’s a big sport to you, it’s very addictive. It’s the competition I love.

"A top match day is just full blast, full on. You wouldn’t believe how dedicated some of the boys are.

"They’re international anglers, they fish for England, it’s their job, they get sponsors. It’s proper.

"Will Raison at Dorking is probably No 1 in England, and to meet him was like meeting Michael Owen. To me they are in the same bracket.

"I was probably more star-struck meeting him actually, but I don’t think Michael would like that."

Source Matt Barlow at The Daily Mail
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