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NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Jimmy Bullard hails Hull's unsung hero

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11 Nov 2009 01:30:00

NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Jimmy Bullard hails Hull's unsung hero

Jimmy Bullard knew the significance of Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's late winner against Stoke City to his manager Phil Brown. And as Brown pumped the air by the technical area and breathed a sigh of relief, Bullard headed towards him. Only the Hull midfielder had a different target in mind. This was Bullard's long awaited home debut and the former Fulham man, whose brilliant performances inspired Roy Hodgson's side to safety two years ago, had finally found his range with the shot which Thomas Sorensen spilled into the Dutch striker's path. Magical moment: Jimmy Bullard (left) and Seyi Olofinjana celebrate Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's decisive goal in the 2-1 win over Stoke at the weekend While his team-mates engulfed Vennegoor of Hesselink behind the Stoke keeper's goal, Bullard sprinted to the Hull dug-out, pulling his shirt from his midriff, beaming like a child on Christmas Day. And then he ushered physio Simon Maltby to the touchline and nearly squeezed the life out of him, pointing over his head in a heartfelt gesture to the crowd intended to bring one of the many unsung heroes of football some well deserved public acknowledgement. Maltby is one of the hundreds of backroom staff who are vital cogs of the game we love. Every club has them, and we only know the names of a handful. Yet these are the trusted men of every club's inner sanctum whose everyday influence is only truly appreciated by managers, players and, hopefully, the board.    More from Colin Young... NORTHERN EXPOSURE: A sure sign this region has become a deadzone05/11/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Gordon's in, so Boro must back him with cash27/10/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Gareth Southgate crowded out at Middlesbrough as Gordon Strachan emerges as the wanted man to lead promotion charge21/10/09 Northern Exposure: Newcastle fans want promotion far more than they want Alan Shearer in or Mike Ashley out 20/10/09 COLIN YOUNG: Ireland persist with Ireland when Reid could replace Reid06/10/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Ian Harte fears the worst for return to Leeds 29/09/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Bruce must win Cup to convince Sunderland fans22/09/09 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Gareth Southgate can take this chance to bounce Boro back to the big time17/09/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVEHe has a proven track record in player treatment and rehabilitation, as skipper Ian Ashbee testifies. When Ashbee looked finished as a physical specimen, never mind a professional footballer, Maltby refused to give up. And more importantly, refused to allow Ashbee to give up. And just as he pushed Ashbee every day for nearly two years, so Maltby was there for the newcomer Bullard when the dark clouds fell on a player facing his second lengthy injury, just one game into his Hull career. Bullard revealed: `Every player will tell you having a long term injury you always have a right hand man with you. He was there for me, we spoke every day and at some points I was closer to him than I was to my missus. `You have to be, well maybe not that close, but you have to have that kind of relationship. He has been brilliant as has his assistant Liam McGarry. They have been first class with me and I owe them loads. I just wanted to show my appreciation for that and give them a cuddle. `Those guys became my manager. When I am injured I can't do a lot for Phil Brown so those guys become my men. They, as well as all the coaching staff, have been first class.' There are not many ex or present team-mates of Jimmy Bullard who would not describe him as unique. No one does enthusiasm, banter, jokes, restlessness and wit quite like him. But even Bullard has struggled to maintain his reputation as the joker in the pack over the last 18 months. He is back to his old self now, as members of the Hull squad, and anyone who comes within touching distance of him will testify. Appreciative: Bullard thanked Hull physio Simon Maltby for helping him return from his knee injury But it is his spark on the pitch which will be crucial to Brown and Hull now. The manager who is the current favourite to be sacked will be praying he stays fit. And if he does, Brown will also be thankful to Maltby and his team. Bullard will never forget his committed work. He said: `Simon pushed me in the gym, at bad times when I really didn't feel like lifting weights, and that's the last thing on my mind. I am rubbish in the gym and he had to pull me in there some days. `There were a lot of those dark times, especially halfway through the rehab when you are miles away from starting but I was always confident that I would come back. `But some days I haven't got a joke in me, other times I feel on top of the world because my knee feels good. It's simple as that really. At the end of the day, I am at my happiest when I can do what I want to do. It seems to vanish when I get out there with the boys. `It means a lot to be finally be out there playing football. I had a bad cruciate ligament injury and nine months out is a lot for me. It was brilliant to be out there. I just couldn't wait to get my boots on.' Maltby's hands-on approach has helped Bullard return to the Hull side on schedule, just as the pressure is really mounting on Brown, and as chairman Adam Pearson returns to rescue Hull for a second time. The details of Bullard's transfer are one of a number under scrutiny, if not the main one. Showman: Hull manager Phil Brown singing to the crowd last season The record signing looked a wise addition during last January's transfer window, coming just as Hull started their freefall towards the Championship with an appalling run of one win in 20 games, but he arrived injured and then lasted that one game, which was another defeat at West Ham. Now every aspect of the move will be revisited as Pearson gets to grips with the club he has inherited from Paul Duffen. Phil Brown will no doubt be asked for his observations, as these are all his signings after all and he worked very closely with the former chairman. Under Duffen, Brown was virtually untouchable but that has all changed, even though it was Pearson who appointed him as Phil Parkinson's assistant, handed him the caretaker role and worked alongside him to pull off a Championship survival which is now sadly almost forgotten. That campaign earned Brown the right to manage Hull City but the club has changed and, Pearson will have noted from afar - as we all have - that Brown has changed too. Just the start: Vennegoor of Hesselink's goal alone will not save Brown's job as new chairman Adam Pearson (below) will demand many more victories If he wants to continue as the Hull manager, he will have to play by Pearson's rules - and his absence from the post-match press conferences on Sunday cannot have been a coincidence as Pearson looks to control the Tigers publicity machine and go `back to basics'. And of course he will have to continue winning matches. And for that he will need the continued support of his players, who are toeing the party line and sticking by their manager. If he does hold private no-holds barred conversation with the squad, Adam Pearson may find a different story, but then you expect some disharmony and personal dissatisfaction at every club. But there are plenty of rows we do know about, to suggest the in-house bust-ups exist too and may have played their part in Hull's problems. Sunday's deserved win over Stoke provided plenty of evidence that Brown, who was brave with his selections, can still galvanise the squad he has put together. If any man is capable of defying his critics now and pulling his players in the right direction, it is Brown. And Bullard will have a major role to play. It comes naturally to him off the pitch, but it is his influence on it that Brown needs now. And Bullard knows it. He said: `He is a top man. It's easy to go into your shell but he has been blinding with us. I hope he stays here for a long time and so do the other boys. `He is calm and believes in himself as all top managers do. That's the main thing for me, he believes in his ways. Simple and methodical. That means more to me than anything. He's a great bloke. Joy: Brown celebrates his team's late winner with his assistant Brian Horton `The win over Stoke has given us a massive lift. If we can build on our home form and start getting some points behind us we will be ok. We can't get carried away, we have to keep believing in ourselves. `It's a tight League, three or four wins together can really boost confidence and send you right up there. `There is a little bit of me that thinks I do owe both Phil Brown and the club. They paid a lot of money for me and I got injured in my first game. Absolute nightmare start for me. `I can only do that on the pitch though, me giving 100 per cent and playing to the best of my ability.'    Explore more:People:Jimmy Bullard, Paul Duffen, Thomas Sorensen, Phil Brown


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