The former Wigan Athletic, Fulham and Hull City midfielder has called time on his 14-year playing career due to ongoing problems with his troublesome knee.
Bullard ruptured the cruciate ligaments in his knee twice in three years – at Fulham and again on his debut for Hull in 2009. Some three years on the pain and playing restrictions forced Bullard to visit a consultant last week hoping for some positive news but unfortunately the 33-year-old has had to hang up his boots.
“My old knee injury has never allowed me to get back to where I want to be as a football player; it’s always hindered me. There are a lot of games in this League and I now know my knee won’t allow me to play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday, it’s not built for that now.
“I want to be out there playing but at the same time I know my knee won’t allow me to play at my best and to keep my place in the team. I’m hindering myself more than I am helping myself for the future.”
Just four weeks ago Bullard inked a short-term deal with the Dons, but after picking up a dead-leg in his full-debut at Northampton and finding himself back in the treatment room he decided to consider his future in the game.
“In the summer I knew I wanted to give it one last crack and show people what I could do. But what I think with my strong head and what I could physically do are two different things. My head tells me I can do it, but my body tells me, no Jim you can’t.”
Plucked from the non-league obscurity of Gravesend & Northfleet, Bullard made a move to West Ham United in 1999 before switching to Peterborough United in 2001.
After making over 70 appearances for Posh, Bullard’s performances earned him a move to the ambitious Wigan Athletic in 2003.
It was at Wigan that Bullard became a star in the making as he quickly established a name for himself as a talented and creative midfielder, helping Athletic win Division Two in his first season and becoming a pivotal player in guiding them to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.
He racked up an impressive 157 appearances for the Latics during a three-year spell in Greater Manchester and his time in the Premier League caught the attentions of a number of high-profile clubs.
It was Fulham who won the battle for Bullard’s signature in May 2006 as they splashed out £2.5 million for his services. His three years at Craven Cottage though were ill-fated with the knee injury restricting him to just 40 appearances.
Then in January 2009, the Newham-born player earned himself a big money move to Hull City for a club record fee of £5 million. Yet, bad luck struck and on his debut for the Tigers Bullard once again injured his knee which, after further surgery, kept him sidelined for nine months.
Following two tough years at the KC Stadium, the one-time Premier League Player of the Month joined Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town on loan where he went on to score on his debut. Netting five times in 16 appearances during his brief spell, Bullard completed a permanent move to the Trotters last August.
“Without a shadow of a doubt this is the hardest decision I've made, but in the same breath I've been a lucky one really.
“There’s a whole list of players who have had their career ripped away from them by injury; I haven’t had a bad career. 14 years in the game professionally it’s not bad at all. It’s been a great job to play footy, there’s plenty of worse ways to earn a living.
“I've got a never-ending list of highs in my career. First of all coming out of non-league football and signing for West Ham, which was a massive high for me. Signing as a professional football player and going on from there – making my debut at Peterborough; winning things with Wigan; signing for Fulham; getting into the England squad while I was at Fulham and after that horrific knee injury; getting into the Carling Cup Final with Wigan, albeit we lost.
“One of my main ambitions as a footballer was getting to play in the Premier League and I did that for a number of years. I achieved a number of things that I wanted to – I would have loved to have achieved more, everyone would, the list is never-ending but I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it.
“I put in 100 per cent everywhere I could, and that is exactly why I’m retiring, I can’t give 100 per cent now because my knee doesn't allow me to.”
Bullard had hoped a move to stadiummk would reignite his career but it was not to be. He did, however, have a clear message for his MK Dons teammates.
“I honestly think MK Dons can do something special with the manager and the group of players they have here. I wish them all the best and I hope they realise how lucky they are to be at a Club like this and to play for a manager like Karl, because he’s going to achieve great things for this Club. I believe he is going to become a top manager.
“I have no regrets – I've enjoyed myself, I've loved every minute. I’m not giving up football thinking ‘I wish I had done that’ because I've tried it all. I've had ups and down, but you’re going to get that. I've had a good time.
“I don’t want to drift away from football; I want to stay in the game perhaps as a scout or in a coaching capacity. I haven’t thought too much about it, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.”