Roy Hodgson admits Jimmy Bullard may get a frosty reception if he makes his long-awaited comeback from injury at Craven Cottage tonight, but he hopes the Fulham fans aren't too harsh on their former hero.
Bullard was a popular figure at Fulham but turned his back on the Cottagers in favour of a better salary as part of a £5million record transfer to the KC Stadium. The move soon turned sour for the Tigers though when he was carried off on a stretcher just 37 minutes into his debut with cruciate knee ligament damage.
The 30-year-old could make his comeback in tonight's match between the two sides and Hodgson concedes booing former players has become an unfortunate part of the modern game.
"I would imagine that he will not get a bad reception but I don't know how fans think in those areas,'' Hodgson said. "The game has changed enormously in that respect. In the past you wouldn't have imagined it but these days you see Barry getting booed every touch he makes when playing for Man City against Aston Villa, so who knows?
"I wouldn't like to think that will happen though and certainly I would take no satisfaction from our fans doing that so I rather hope that they will give him a better reception.''
Bullard was also ruled out for 16 months with the same injury at Craven Cottage before returning to star in Fulham's unlikely escape from relegation in 2008. He wrote himself into Cottagers folklore on the last day of the 2007-08 season by providing the assist for Danny Murphy's winner against Portsmouth which kept Hodgson's side up.
Hodgson believes Bullard will be desperate to prove he is back to his best and praised his determination.
"He's such an enthusiastic footballer. He loves to play so much and I take my hat off to him for overcoming this latest set back,'' Hodgson said. "I'm pretty sure that the Hull medical staff will be holding him back because he'll be so keen to play and obviously we fear him as an opponent.''
Both teams will be desperate to edge away from the relegation zone after making poor starts to the season. Hodgson will be without the suspended Kagisho Dikgacoi and long-term absentees Toni Kallio and Simon Davies.