Fulham 1 Sheffield United 0: Bullard's England hopes boosted by location, location, location

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The Independent Football

"Jimmy Bullard for England?" Well though he played for Wigan Athletic that was not a widespread call last season. Yet three games into this season that was a suggestion in two of the nation's biggest-selling newspapers yesterday.

So what has changed? Bullard's address. He is now within sight of the capital's media and that can be a big factor when it comes to gaining recognition. There may be no shortage of players from the cities of Liverpool and Manchester United in the England frame but the smaller provincial clubs provide only Stuart Downing to the current squad, and his eyes are looking south.

Playing for a London club has long enhanced a player's profile and England managers have traditionally been similarly influenced. But one hitherto overlooked aspect of Steve McClaren's appointment is that, for only the third time in history, the national coach will not be living in the South-east. Whereas Sven Goran Eriksson lived in London, and rarely went outside the M25 at weekends, McClaren intends to remain in Yarm, near Middlesbrough. Of his 10 predecessors only Kevin Keegan (North-east) and Graham Taylor (Midlands) did the same.

So Bullard's prospects of pulling on the three lions may not be as good as they would have been had Eriksson continued. That, however, was not why he moved south. The lure, he said after driving Fulham to their first win of the season, was a desire to "play with top- quality players" and "it felt right coming home".

Chris Coleman is simply delighted to have secured a player he first noted when Bullard inspired then-Championship Wigan to a League Cup victory over Fulham three years ago. "He ran the show," the Fulham manager said. "I'd tried to sign him a couple of times since and we were finally able to get him in the summer. He's an old-fashioned player. He's not in the game to make money, he just loves playing football. He's not flash, he'd rather go fishing than drive around in a big Bentley."

Bullard, who has been nicknamed "Margaret Thatcher" by his new team-mates in reference to his flowing locks, scored and shone against Bolton in midweek and he did the same on Saturday. He had the game's first three shots at goal - two were saved and one blocked but there was no stopping his curling 25-yard free-kick. Bullard later hit the woodwork with a fierce drive and, with Collins John also striking the post, and Paddy Kenny making some sharp saves, Fulham deserved victory.

The Blades were blunt. As Neil Warnock said, the final ball was too often poor and Antii Niemi was rarely troubled. Rob Hulse said afterwards "I don't think we have seen anything in the Premiership to be particularly scared of," but admitted, "we need to wise up a little bit. It's a steep learning curve and we have got to learn quickly."

Goal: Bullard (40) 1-0.

Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Christanval, Pearce, Queudrue; Brown (Radzinski, 68), Diop, Bullard, Boa Morte; John (Helguson, 67), McBride. Substitutes not used: Drobny (gk), Volz, Bocanegra.

Sheffield United(4-4-2): Kenny; Bromby (Sommeil, 80), Morgan, Jagielka, Unsworth; Montgomery (Nade, 64), Tonge (A Quinn, 72), Leigertwood, Armstrong; Hulse, Webber. Substitutes not used: Bennett, Akinbiyi.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Booked: Fulham Diop, Helguson, Bullard; Sheffield Utd Tonge, Leigertwood, A Quinn.

Man of the match: Bullard.

Attendance: 18,362.

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