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By ESPN Staff
Jan 15, 2008

Hodgson wary of rushing back returning Bullard

Fulham's new manager Roy Hodgson could come under pressure from his players to give Jimmy Bullard his second outing in four days in the tricky FA Cup third-round replay at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday.

But the former Inter Milan, Blackburn and Finland boss will not take any risks with the long-term health of the influential midfielder, who has been out for 16 months with a severe knee ligament injury.

Bullard made his comeback as a late substitute against former club West Ham on Saturday and Hodgson's dilemma now is whether to start him at the Memorial Stadium, where the struggling Premier League club face a stern test of character against the League One battlers who held them to a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage nine days ago.

Fulham full-back Paul Konchesky, another former West Ham man who reached the final with them in 2006, said: 'Jimmy coming back is like having a new signing at the club.

'He hasn't had the opportunity to play much at Fulham since he joined because of the injury and it really is like a big, big signing.

'We know how much ability he has and hopefully he will help us push on over the remainder of the season.'

Hodgson is an admirer of Bullard, who joined Fulham in a £2.5million move from Wigan in May 2006 only to be injured after just a handful of games.

And he admitted: 'You know how Jimmy is. He would go out there on crutches and play if we asked him.

'But I have to be mindful he is only just coming back from a serious injury and I will take expert medical advice about how we bring him back.

'He did well on Saturday at West Ham, coming on when we were 2-1 down for the last 15 minutes or so, but it is the same with Brian McBride who is also just coming back from a long-term injury. You have to be careful.'