When people talk about a rags-to-riches story in football, no one can epitomize the fairytale dream more than Jimmy Bullard who is still celebrating his first call-up to the England squad.
Bullard has come a long way from being a painter and decorator and is now hoping to star for his country in the World Cup qualifiers.
Bullard, 29, received a shock call-up to Fabio Capello's squad for the forthcoming games against Andorra and Croatia and could play a big part with Steven Gerrard being ruled out through injury.
It has been a roller-coaster journey for the Fulham midfielder who started his career earning 60 pounds a week with Gravesend and Northfleet.
Bullard will never forget the days he went out with his dad trying to earn a living and could never have dreamed he would go on to become one of the best midfielders in the Premier League and being called up to the England squad.
Bullard said: “I was a painter and decorator with my dad. I did that for three years and played non-league football as well.
“I must say my dad looked after me, he always gave me the day off when I was playing to rest my leg and minds so I could give it 100 percent in my football.
“It was hard to play football as well as having a 9 to 5 job – or 7am-7pm. It was my dad's own company so he looked after me but it was still hard work, rubbing down walls and ceilings.
“I've come up slowly through the ranks. I started at non-league Gravesend and I'm in the England squad now. It's obviously a massive difference.
“It's been a great education in football for me and I've come up through the leagues. There's been a lot of slow times but also a lot of great times so to be wearing the England tracksuit is fantastic for me.”
Bullard admits he will never forget his upbringing and has certainly learned his trade having had spells with West Ham, Peterborough, Wigan and now Fulham.
Away from the field, Bullard is a keen golfer and before his sudden call-up, he was planning to play at the team's Grove Hotel this weekend.
Bullard will now be flying out to Barcelona on Friday and has no problems swapping the golf course for a place in the England team this weekend.
Bullard added: “I am still a scratch golfer. We had a little putting competition on Monday which was good. Obviously I won!
“Fulham haven't got a game this weekend and I was planning to have a rest, play a bit of golf and do a bit of fishing. I might even have popped over here (The Grove Hotel) to be honest.
“I've played at The Grove a few times but it's much better wearing the Three Lions and the tracksuit.”
Bullard is regarded as one of the biggest characters in the game and Capello would have taken note of his popularity among players and supporters across the country.
Fulham players will never forget one occasion during a pre-season tour of Austria when they were staying in the same hotel as Real Madrid and Bullard stood up in front of David Beckham and his Madrid team-mates and started singing to the whole squad.
He said: “It was just a bit of banter. There was a guitar hanging about so I grabbed it and played a few tunes. I'm sure all the Real Madrid players found it funny.
“I am what I am. I'll just be myself. The boys help you along, so it's quite easy. I hope I'm liked. I play my football with a smile on my face. That's how I play my best football to be honest. I can't get too uptight.
“There's players who treat it in different ways, but I just go out there and enjoy my football and enjoy life. That's as simple as I can put it. It's great for the fans to like you, that's what you aim for.”
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