THERE’S a popular chant at Craven Cottage right now which goes ‘Jimmy Bullard, he’s thinner than Frank Lampard, better than Steven Gerrard.’
The subject of the terrace tribute is deeply flattered but does not entirely agree with his admirers.
Bullard admitted: “It’s a blinding song but only half of it is correct. I’m not sure I’m better than Steven — but I’m definitely thinner than Frank.”
The Fulham midfield ace has plenty to smile about after recovering from a career-threatening knee injury and hauling the Cottagers back from the brink of relegation last season.
His form at the start of the current campaign was good enough to earn an England call-up, although he will not be holding his breath when Fabio Capello names his squad tonight for next week’s friendly in Germany.
Bullard, 30, added: “It was a bit of a shock when I was called up but I loved every minute of my time with the squad.
“I felt I held my own in training but I didn’t get the chance to play in the games against Andorra and Croatia.
“I was waiting for the call for the next squad but it didn’t come and I was gutted about that. But not enough to go ranting and raving about it.
“I still hope to get another opportunity. Never say never.”
It has been rumoured Bullard might not treat the game with enough gravity to impress Capello.
But he said; “If I took my football deadly serious, I might not have got to where I am now. I play my best football when I’m enjoying it.
“I could never treat the game like Roy Keane did. He played his best football when he wanted to kill someone. I’m not like that — and a lot of the boys I’m playing against are my mates.
“But just because I play with a smile on my face, it doesn’t mean I muck about on the pitch.”
So what about the game against Sunderland when he was captured by the TV cameras grabbing Pascal Chimbonda by the unmentionables?
He admitted: “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. But Pascal is my mate from our days together at Wigan. And what they didn’t show was that a few minutes earlier he’d had a grab at me.
“But when you’re winning and everything is flowing, it doesn’t get any better than that. So why not give it a few of the old oles and show what you can do?”
Bullard came up against Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham on Saturday. Redknapp introduced him to professional football when he signed him for West Ham from non-league Gravesend & Northfleet almost 10 years ago.
And while Redknapp has had a startling effect on the Spurs dressing room, Bullard admits Harry sent him to sleep when they worked together.
He said: “I went to West Ham on a two-week trial when I was 19 but I was so knackered by the full-time training I went straight to bed after every session.
“That first week nearly killed me but I did enough for Harry to sign me and I had three fabulous years at Upton Park, even though I never actually played for the first team.
“Harry was brilliant. What you see is what you get with him and it’s no surprise Spurs have picked up.
“But I left West Ham when Harry went in 2001 because I was starting to question whether I was good enough to make it as a pro.
“It was a gamble to leave but it paid off as I came on leaps and bounds at Peterborough and even more when I went to Wigan two years later.”
Bullard won promotion twice and helped Wigan to the 2006 Carling Cup final before a £2.5million move to Craven Cottage that summer.
But he managed just three games for his new club before his career was thrown into jeopardy by a sickening injury.
He said: “We were playing at Newcastle when Scott Parker landed on my right knee and dislocated my kneecap.
“I went to Colorado to see Dr Richard Steadman, the world’s top knee surgeon. He said it was like a bomb had gone off in my leg, one of the worst injuries he’d ever seen.
“Five years ago it would have been the end of my career. But he’d just developed a new healing response.”
Bullard has just opened talks with Fulham about a new contract and insists: “I love it here and the fans have been fantastic. They’ve even got their own song for me … ”