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By ESPN Staff

Bullard an inspiration for England hopefuls

Jimmy Bullard is hoping he will act as an inspiration for other non-league players after earning his first England call-up at the age of 29. Bullard began his career with Gravesend and Northfleet as a £60-a-week player while working as a painter and decorator.

Now the Fulham midfielder has been selected by Fabio Capello for England's vital World Cup qualifiers with Andorra and Croatia.

Bullard said: 'I hope what I have achieved will act as a spur to other players, other non-league players. There are a lot of young players out there. There are a lot of older players out there.

'But you have always got time. My message is never give in, hang in there and play to the best of your ability.

'I was playing for Gravesend earning £60 a week which is a long way away from being picked for England.

'I remember it like it was yesterday. I played on the right wing and they were fantastic times. I enjoyed them immensely.

'Since getting the England call I've had text messages off everybody I have known down the years and it has brought back memories of a lot of old friends and great times in the past.'

Injuries to the likes of Owen Hargreaves and Steven Gerrard have helped Bullard make the international breakthrough, but he is determined not to let his country down if given the opportunity.

The ex-Wigan player said: 'I've never represented England at any sort of level. It is fantastic for me.

'You never feel that the chance has completely gone but you do feel it might be fading away. I am overwhelmed to finally get the call now.

'I'm just getting my head down and trying to prove I can do a job for England if called upon by the manager.

'It's been a bit of a reunion for me because I was also a youngster at West Ham when people like Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Glenn Johnson were all there.

'We've had some good chats about old times.'

Only two years ago Bullard feared he would never play again after suffering an horrific knee injury against Newcastle.

Bullard admitted he contemplated having to quit football midway through his rehabilitation from the injury which kept him out of action for 16 months.

He said: 'There were a few dark times. I was in the gym wondering whether I would ever play again and halfway through the rehab I thought I might have to hang up my boots.

'During those days I could never see this day coming with England but you have to keep going and keep believing.

'A letter came through from the FA last Wednesday saying I was in contention for the squad but for it to happen is a dream come true.

'Every player playing football wants to represent their country and hopefully I will get the chance.'

Bullard admitted: 'I had to show a great deal of strength and character to come back from the injury.

'It makes you stronger mentally. It makes you a stronger person as well as a stronger footballer.'


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