Jimmy's England call-up
PUBLISHED: 12:29 04 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:04 23 August 2010
A FOOTBALLER who rose from non-league obscurity and defied the odds by overcoming a horrific injury has been given a shot at England glory. Jimmy Bullard, 29, former Dartford and Gravesend and Northfleet player, was selected by England coach Fabio Capell
A FOOTBALLER who rose from non-league obscurity and defied the odds by overcoming a horrific injury has been given a shot at England glory.
Jimmy Bullard, 29, former Dartford and Gravesend and Northfleet player, was selected by England coach Fabio Capello in his squad to face two crucial World Cup qualifiers.
The midfielder had his knee smashed back the wrong way two years ago while playing for Fulham.
But after coming back following 15 gruelling months out of the game, he could now be lining up alongside international stars Frank Lampard and David Beckham, against Andorra and Croatia.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, before England training, he said: "To finally get the call is a dream come true, a great honour and a bit surreal.
"I remember it like it was yesterday, playing for Gravesend and Northfleet, earning £60 a week.
"It's been a long way round and to finally get a call-up by your country is great. It's a great feeling to be playing alongside the world's best.
"I'm not daunted or nervous. I'm most comfortable when I'm on the pitch playing football and I'll answer all the questions when I'm called upon."
Dartford Football Club Life President Mike Brett-Smith said Bullard, even as a 19-year-old, had class: "It was a real coup for us to get him on loan from Dover, who were several leagues above us.
"For some reason their manager Bill Williams didn't like players under 6ft. Jimmy was a cut above the standard he was playing in, he had tremendous skill, could beat people in tight corners and had great distribution skills. He had a fantastic engine, great work rate."
Bullard played a handful of pre-season games in 1998, before making a Southern League appearance for the Darts against Trowbridge.
He was signed later that season by Gravesend and Northfleet - now Ebbsfleet United - making his debut against St Albans.
Former team-mate Jimmy Jackson played left midfield while Bullard was on the right.
Jackson, now with Folkestone Invicta, said: "Jimmy's a very exuberant character, quick thinking and won't be phased by the situation or who he is playing against.
"I don't think Capello would have included him if he had no intention of playing him. He can play anywhere, but for England I see him being more central.
"It would have been better if he could get a few friendlies under his belt, the pressure is on right from the start. But good luck to him."
Former Fleet manager Andy Ford, now with Welling Utd, who snapped up Bullard from Dover, reacted to his England selection with "Flipping Heck!"
Ford said: "I can't remember a Kent lad going into the England squad before.
"With Fleet he was full of life, could come off the pitch after 90 minutes fresher than anyone else. He is one of the fittest players I've ever known.
"In the England team I wouldn't be surprised to see him trying to nick the free kicks, he's that type of character, he will try and run the show."
Ford praised Bullard's determination during his 15-month recovery from two operations in America to re-build his knee.
He said: "To come back after an injury like that is fantastic.
"He is naturally gifted. During his recovery he even won a fishing competition and plays golf off a one or two handicap.