Bullard set to return against Fulham

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The Independent Football

Hull's record signing Jimmy Bullard is poised to make his long-awaited return against former club Fulham on Monday.

Bullard, who has been out for nine months with a serious knee injury, has made encouraging progress in recent weeks and featured in two reserves fixtures.

The 30-year-old has played just 37 minutes of first-team football since his £5million move from Fulham in January.

"Whether he starts or not we will have to wait, it is a big decision," said Tigers assistant boss Brian Horton.

"But it is great to see him back.

"He is a quality player and will be a massive plus when he does start a game.

"We want him back as quickly as we can but he has been out a long time and we can't rush it.

"We will have to monitor it, it is a long-term picture. We have got to be patient but he can do some tremendous things, he is an outstanding footballer."

Bullard was injured on his Hull debut at West Ham and was forced to undergo major surgery on his knee for a second time in less than two-and-a-half years.

His previous lay-off, whilst at Fulham, lasted 16 months but he returned to play a key role in the Cottagers' escape from relegation in 2008.

That earned him hero status among fans but he eventually left the club because Fulham were not prepared to match Hull's long-term contract offer.

"I'm sure he will get a good reception," added Horton.

"I can't see any reason why he shouldn't - if he is part of the squad.

"He's a likeable character and he just loves being out there.

"It is always nice to play against your old teams, no matter who you are."

Horton admits, however, that there were some difficult moments during Bullard's rehabilitation.

He said: "He was down at times. When you want to be out on the field and you love playing so much, it is frustrating.

"You must have moments when you wonder what is going on in your life.

"You want to be out there and we had to keep him going."

Hull are also hoping defender Anthony Gardner could return on Monday after playing 45 minutes alongside Bullard in a reserves friendly against York this week.

The former Tottenham player has not featured since the win over Bolton on August 22 due to a knee problem.

Hull are 18th in the table but at least travel to Craven Cottage in good spirits after securing a much-needed victory over Wigan in their last outing.

The 2-1 success was only the club's third in the league in 2009 after the Bolton win and one at their next opponents Fulham in March.

Horton said: "It is not just the Jimmy Bullard show.

"We had some good performances against Wigan.

"We have now got a massive month. The Wigan result was fantastic and much-needed and brings us into a run of games which is going to be very important for us."

Hull also play Portsmouth and Burnley before the end of October.