In this day and age, it is becoming all too often for former professional footballers to be handed a job in the media spotlight, either as a presenter, pundit or special guest.
But no one is quite like the priceless Jimmy Bullard!
The curly-haired comic, who played over 280 professional games throughout his career, including 90 Premier League games, is currently headlining in his very own show ‘Jimmy Bullard Kicks Off‘ on London Live every Friday night.
The 37-year-old, who was forced to hang up his boots back in October 2012 due to seriously sustained injury problems, is relishing his new TV presenting role on live national television following his starring roles in the likes of ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!’, ‘Play to the Whistle’ and Sky’s ‘Soccer AM’.
The former Wigan Athletic and Fulham midfielder is renowned for his dressing room gaffes and off-field pranks, including his memorable encounter with Everton striker Duncan Ferguson back in 2006, hilarious outtakes for his Sky Sports Football profile and THAT famous goal celebration for Hull City at Manchester City nearly six years ago today.
Shoot spoke exclusively to Bullard about his new career path in the media spotlight, his best memories from his playing career, the funniest gags he has ever pulled off and how he would handle Lady Campbell’s scandalous behaviour in the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here camp!
For anybody that hasn’t already seen your show, how would you sum up what you get up to on ‘Jimmy Bullard Kicks Off’?
“Well it changes week to week, but it is crazy! It depends on what fans we have on, they really make it for me. It is like a football-based show. Even though it is a sports show, we sort of lean towards football quite a lot. We also have some great celebrity guests on, some great bands and great actors. We do a bit of everything! We have a journo [journalistic] side as well. I’m not frightened of talking about any sport really. UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] is something I like to bring up because that is another favourite of mine. So we are divulging everything. But it is 70 per cent football and comedy as well, which we try and keep upbeat with laughs and giggles. It is a great laugh!”
In terms of your special guests, what can we look forward to seeing on your show in the forthcoming weeks?
“We don’t like to give any guests away do we! We have got a few different VTs coming up which I am going to be in; about what I get up to during the weeks, which we will be talking about. I have got a vets team running on Saturdays, so we have taken a camera down and got a little two-minute VT to show what I have been up to during weekends. There are a few other things that are coming up on the show, but I don’t really want to give too much away!”
How are you enjoying your new role as a TV presenter?
“At the start, I struggled. I was in the unknown. I was like, “What do I do at these certain points?” Even like seeing it out until the break, which sounds quite simple, but it is not simple for me! But I have got better, it has become easier for me and I have loved the whole gig. I always chuck myself in the deep end with things. I spoke to Lucy Myers (Programme Director), who has been lovely to me; she has been in charge of the whole thing. It had just six weeks before I took this [job] on. That is how quick it was! It was like, “Six weeks; make a decision… In front of the camera, bang!” I had a few meltdowns before getting underway live! But I think live TV pushes me through. Where it is live and spontaneous and off the cuff a little bit, it helps me out, it keeps my mind going. I love it, I really do like it.”
Looking back on your footballing career now, what was your favourite moment?
“That is a hard one because I have got so many! When I got to the cup final for Wigan [Athletic] against Manchester United in the Carling Cup final, that was good. My first-ever Premier League game against Chelsea was with Wigan, because I always wanted to play in the Premier League. Even though we lost 1-0; Crespo put one in the top corner in the 90th minute, it killed us! Then the very first professional game I played, that was for Peterborough [United] vs Swindon [Town]. I remember there were 7,000 watching, but it seemed like there were about 70,000! It seemed a lot more because it was my first-ever professional game. Them three, for different circumstances, were my three favourites.”
What was the funniest moment you experienced on the pitch?
“I always get asked what happened between me and Duncan [Ferguson]! Sometimes people think that I am that funny character, but it has sort of branched on its own because you don’t realise what the cameras pick up. I didn’t know at that moment that this would become a funny bit of film because you don’t know what is being shown and what the cameras are picking up. When I watch that back, it does make me laugh for the face I pull and how I am unsure of what he is going to do next! When I am walking in the street so many people come up to me and ask me about that, so I suppose that has got to be one of them. Also the lights went out at Wigan as well, so I just ran the length of the field when the lights were out! I was just messing about really and that got quite a lot of press. I have done loads of stuff! The bundle; kids always come up to me and ask, “What were you doing there? Why were you jumping?” It was just because it was a boring game and that was that. I was just bored! There are probably dozens of things I have done, but they are probably the biggest ones that people come up to me on the street and say, “What happened there…?”
That famous moment with Duncan Ferguson after he floored Paul Scharner… Were you scared?
“I don’t know whether it was because I was scared, it was just the whole shock of it. He had only come on for five minutes and punched him! I guess I was a little bit scared back then because he was unpredictable, especially back then. It was like, “Oh, is he going to sling another one?” It was a bit of fear, bit of unpredictability and wondering what he is going to do next really and I was shocked of the whole scenario. But I knew one of the other players and that is who I was talking to, James McFadden. I was sort of saying to him, “What is the matter with him?” He says, “Oh, he is mad! Seriously mad”. And as he is walking off, I say jokingly, “Duncan, I’ll see you in the tunnel afterwards!”, like messing around. But he took it deadly serious and he was waiting in the tunnel afterwards! But I was like, “Dunc, I am only joking!” But he wanted a fight, but I was like, “No, you are too good for me!” So it doesn’t always pay-off to be funny, kids, if you are listening to this.”
What was the best-ever prank you pulled in the dressing room?
“Oh I have done loads! Done some blinders. How bad can we go on this interview? [Laughs] I have done loads of stuff from putting stuff like Ralgex [Heat spray] up in the boys’ pants and cutting socks up. I have put Ralgex in toothpaste before. You get some good facials when they put that on! Ralgex is a classic because it is not supposed to be used on certain areas of your body, so when you get them, it is classic. We had Mike Pollitt in goal for us playing at Wigan and 10 minutes before kick-off, I put all of his kit in a cold shower. And that was in January as well! Don’t ask me why, I just thought I would do it. I have wee’d in aftershave bottles before. I have just done some mad stuff! They are the most common ones. I just like messing around all the time! But you see it is not just me all of the time, there are other boys that get up to trouble. That is what you don’t hear I suppose, I have had it all done to me. But I suppose when they come and do it to me, I hit them double bad! Then it is over. Sometimes if you get a name for yourself as a prankster, which I did have in football, then they sort of keep away from you. They are always in fear.”
How have you been keeping fit since retiring over three years ago?
“I love my golf! There is plenty of walking and carrying. People might say that isn’t really keeping fit, but it really is! Especially if you play as much as I do. But I always watch what I eat to a certain degree. I don’t really slob out and I do the odd run. I am swimming and starting to get into biking. But I have never been one of those fellas who put on weight easily, so I am quite lucky. I have always looked after myself. As you can see, I am quite trimmed! As I said earlier, I have got a vets team, with all my old mates back in the south-east where I used to live. It is a great thing to be playing with all of your old mates because I used to play professional football. Lee Bowyer is playing for me at the weekend, so we have got a wicked vets team. I have got Razor [Neil Ruddock],who is going to play a few, and Trevor Sinclair too. Plus a few of my other mates that are still working in the trade like roofers, builders, decorators and fireman play, so we all get together every Saturday and have a game. We have got a blinding team! We have played nine games unbeaten so far, I love it and I still take it as serious as if I were back in the Premier League.”
One of your former clubs, Fulham, are currently looking for a new manager. Reading boss Steve Clarke snubbed an offer last week. But who would you like to see the Cottagers appoint as Kit Symons’ successor?
“He is already taken, but I would have Karl Robinson from MK Dons. He is doing a great job there. I rate Karl so highly, I would love to see him at a big club like Fulham. But he is doing really well at MK Dons after taking them up last year. But someone like him, because I know Fulham have always been a team where the fans like to see good football. They like to see the ball on the floor, what I call ‘proper football’ and Karl can bring that. Karl is a proper football man and likes it being played in the right way. It is a hard league to get out of the Championship. You need a top, top manager to drag them out.
“Have Fulham not got a manager still then..? I’m available! If you are watching. But I’ll be doing my badges soon so in the next three or four years, I’ll be managing a top team like that hopefully.”
Meanwhile, your favourite club West Ham United are currently sixth in the Premier League. What have you made of manager Slaven Bilic’s impact at the club so far?
“Bilic, what a signing! As soon as he got the job, I knew that he would be brilliant. It is a real family club West Ham and fans get real close. Now ‘Big Sam’ [Sam Allardyce] felt the pressure; if the fans don’t think they are playing the right kind of football, they will let you know down there and Sam felt that. He made a couple of comments which didn’t go down to well with the fans when he left. But Bilic is like a man’s man. As a fan, you can connect to him. I’m not saying you couldn’t with Sam, but you really can with Bilic. He will come out and tell you how it is, straight. West Ham fans really rate that and spark off that. That is why I like him as well, he has had such a great start and I think he has brought a buzz around the club. Where he is still young, new and fresh to the Premier League, plus he was also one hell of a player for West Ham, so the fans can relate [with him]. I think he will be there for a long, long time.”
How much of a blow is losing influential midfielder Dimitri Payet for up to three months through injury?
“Oh what a player! It has killed us because we always seem to have this at West Ham. We bring in a couple of great players and get injured or they go. If you have a look at the players that we have had over the years; like Rio [Ferdinand], Frank [Lampard], Glen Johnson, [Jermain] Defoe, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and myself! I have put myself in that category, I can’t believe that! But we have had so many great players; if we could of kept half of them, we would be a top-six Premier League team all day long. And that is what we have got with Payet, he has just got injured and it has just killed us at a bad time.”
You’ve become a regular on ‘Soccer AM’ with the popular ‘You Know The Drill’ feature this season. How much are you enjoying that?
“Soccer AM have always spoken well of me. They have always given me a lot of respect and looked after me since I was a player. I would always speak openly and they have just been brilliant for me. So I do this ‘You Know The Drill’ for them at the minute, which has gone down absolutely brilliantly. Fenners [John Fendley] came up with the idea and he has been a top man with me. They all love him on the show. It is such a good idea because it gives the fans an insight into what the pros get up to. Even though at the minute it is just finishing drills, hopefully we can change that up in the New Year, or whenever the time is right, to the defending stuff. The kids, especially watching on YouTube, online and Soccer AM, get real close and up dirty, if you like, to what the managers, strikers and goalkeepers get up to. I love that. If I had that when I was a kid; to look back at what the pros get up to on the training ground, what they are doing and the boots they are doing, I think that is such a wicked thing to give back to them. Soccer Am; what a show, and what they have done for me is blinding. Kids now have got their own phones, doing their own drills and sending them all in. There is so much interaction. It is not just only that, but they can advance quicker because they see what the pros are getting up to and they can get an insight look at what the pros are doing. Instead of them guessing, they know what they should be doing, so it is great.”
Since your appearance on ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’ you have become a big TV personality. How different is that experience to being a professional footballer?
“It has changed a little bit, it definitely has. When I came out [of the jungle], it was a huge show. I don’t think I would be sitting here if it weren’t for the jungle, let’s put it that way. My career sort of branched off a little bit in the media and it gave me a whole new platform, which I needed really. I was never scared to say this; the reason that I went into the jungle was because I needed a new start really. I could never grab football back. It has gone. It is a short career, as everybody knows. The jungle gave me something with a bit of TV, bit of radio, I have got a podcast out now, so it gave me a different direction. Even when I am walking down the street, an old lady will come up to me or two young girls, I have got a different audience now. Different people recognise me. It is not so much the football fans now, it is the TV watchers. “Oh, you were in the jungle! You are that funny bloke”. It is nice, I have got a different audience, 100 per cent.”
It’s been a year since you were in Australia, what was the whole jungle experience like?
“It was mad! I have watched the jungle ever since it came out. It was so different walking in than watching. It was tough! That is the first thing; people don’t realise just how tough it is. People think you get handed pizza and cakes behind the scenes, but believe me you don’t! I nearly walked three times, I was that close to walking because I was so hungry, but I lasted two weeks. My relationship with Foggy [Carl Fogarty]; he was a real serious character, he wouldn’t of done what he done in his own sport without being that serious and focused. As soon as I met him, after the first day, I thought, “Christ he is serious this fella! He just wants to win everything” I’m a sportsman so of course I love winning, but this fella was different. For example, we would get up in the morning, this is five o’clock remember, and he had already been up, put the fire on and picked all the logs up! Remember you have got no food or energy inside you. He has done those treks like three or four times with 10 pieces of wood. Then he would go and get all of the water, then sit down and go, “Cor, I’m knackered now!” I said, “I should think so! I’ve only just woken up and you have done all of that!” I went up against Vicki [Michelle] and Nadia [Forde] in this box [trial], basically with a clock that you weren’t allowed to let them hit the thing [tick down]. I lost! Me and my team-mate lost against Vicky and Nadia. The abuse he [Foggy] gave me was outrageous! He destroyed me. And then he is up against Edwina Currie and all he had to do was hold down a button. But his finger came off the button and I absolutely buried him! It took him two days to get over that! He was distraught. I was like, “You are meant to be a world champion and you can’t even beat Edwina!” He found that harder than the actual jungle! He is a strong minded character and we just got so close because I knew what he was about and we just pulled each other through really. He didn’t struggle with food you see, he struggled with boredom. So I think I got him through that.”
What do you make of this year’s I’m a Celebrity contestants? Who is your favourite?
“I am surprised Kieron [Dyer] has gone in there! But it is still early days yet. That Lady C [Campbell], she is nuts! I couldn’t be dealing with people like that because she wants to be in charge of everything. You have got to have a bit of give and take, no matter how well-spoken she is or where she comes from. You can’t be doing that. So she would have got a bit of stick from me! But all the rest seem blinding. Tony [Hadley] and Chris Eubank, they are all a good little bunch they have got this year. The young boy in there at the minute, he seems nice, George [Shelley] isn’t it? He seems nice, he seems to have a bit of respect and cares about other people. I can’t be dealing with rude people. So I like him and the young actress, Jorgie [Porter]. Them two are my favourites.”
* You can catch ‘Jimmy Bullard Kicks Off’ on London Live every Friday at 7pm.