Saturday, 10 March 2012

Jimmy Bullard: Do we all still want curly hair too?

The Jimmy Bullard saga continues to take it's twists and turns at Ipswich Town and I'm torn between concern and fascination.

When Jimmy B joined The Blues on loan last season, it seemed as though our saviour had come. He played some great football, lifted a struggling side and in the space of just a few months he earned the Fans Player of the Season award at Portman Road.

I'll never forget the day we signed him over the summer: Twitter filled with #itfc fans in jubilation. Paul Jewell has secured, in my humble opinion, the greatest signing of the summer.

Sadly, the story since then has not been quite so happy. Jimmy has struggled to find fitness and form. Thought he featured in almost every game for the early part of the season and was key to the short success of Jewell's diamond formation, he was eventually dropped to the bench.

All this culminated in the events last week where he was seen on a night out with fellow Town player Micheal Chopra in Newcastle. As we all know, this resulted in the two being late for training an Jimmy being suspended for two weeks.

It led me to wonder, has he done this kind of thing before? Is this why Hull fans can't stand him? Is this why no Premier League club attempted to sign him over the summer?

With my curly blond wig in semi-retirement for another week I decided to look into it, to judge for myself whether Bullard and Ipswich Town are a good mix, or a recipe for disaster.

A little while back I found this excellent article by a Hull City blogger:

In it, he explains that when the midfielder signed for east Yorkshire side the reaction among the fans was much the same as it was when he came to Suffolk: 'When 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.'

Bullard was rumoured to be on £45,000 a week at this point (something hat puts his rumoured wage of between £15 and £21 thousand at Ipswich into perspective a little).

Jimmy wasn't able to start in the side straight away due to a long term injury he suffered from. When he finally made his first appearance, he played for 33 minutes against West Ham before, once again, picking up an injury.

But Hull fans stuck with him, feeling sympathy for this 'great talent who, through no fault of his own, was suffering from an injury plagued career'. It makes me think of poor old Kieron Dyer at this point!

With the support of the fans, he later returned to the side: '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.'

But then, guttingly, he took a knock against Aston Villa: once again putting him out of action, this time for 4 months.

This is when the mood of the fans turned, they felt angry that he was being paid such high wages yet not playing or contributing to the side.

This is where I see the similarities with Ipswich. It feels like feeling among the Blues faithful is starting to turn sour at the moment. To some extend that is, of course, understandable but I just don't see how that will help, how putting him down and moaning will improve his game and help the team as a whole.

Of course the difference here is that he has not found form. His performances this year compared to last year are disappointing and his fitness has been pointed to as the main contributing factor. Perhaps he just doesn't fit as well into this new look side? Or perhaps he just isn't committed enough, as evidenced by his recent night out in Newcastle?

Moving back to the situation at Hull, the comparison in circumstances continues: fans began to be discontented due to his apparent lack of respect for the club.

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

He eventually returned to the side but was reportedly off form, avoiding tackles and not keeping up to the pace of the game.

The story ended at Hull when over the summer his contract was terminated due to behaviour that ultimately left the club with 'no choice' but to sack him. I don't know the reasons and, to be honest, I'm not sure I want to do. He's moved on now.

But, is it a case of history repeating itself with Jimmy at ITFC now?

It could well be, but this is a man who clearly wants to be playing football and if he can learn from what's happened, not only this week but over recent years at Hull too, he could be a great asset for the Tractor Boys.

For me: I love having him around. I point to a quote from a member of the Ipswich Town media team after one particularly good Town home win:

'Just seen Jason Scotland who says the boys are in great spirits after that result, all I could hear in the changing room was Jimmy Bullard!'

Furthermore, in a recent goal celebration following a Chopra goal, Jimmy B was right in there with them, despite not even being on the pitch.

The truth is we don't know what's going on behind the scenes, we don't know what effect he has on the boys. But going on recent results I find it hard to believe it's a bad one?

At the end of the day WE wanted that big character at ITFC, that passion for the game that seems to have been missing for such a long time.

WE wanted Jimmy to be that character, building him up to be a quirky cool cat who likes to dance on bars and have a laugh and then shooting him down for that exact same thing is hypocritical.

Don't get me wrong: he should NOT have been late for training last Thursday. He's a professional footballer and the club, our club, deserve better than that.

But we've all done it I'm sure, and we've all moved on and made sure it doesn't happen again. Paul Jewell has dealt with it in the way that he sees fit, now let's move on.

You know me, I firmly believe that showing support for the boys brings out the best in them: I'll not bring up the amazing turnaround at Barnsley again because there are better examples recently. The great support against West Ham, Southampton and so many others has transferred to the pitch and the lads have achieved some excellent results.

Can we now extend that same principle to our Jimmy B, please?

He still could be a legend at Town, give him the chance.

In Jimmy I Trust.

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