Watching England press conferences is a wonderful way of invoking a spooky sense of deja vu. The players sit looking like they would rather be somewhere else, going through the motions of rolling out the same old meaningless clichés, and generally leave it to their journalistic opposition to take the initiative.
It is an interesting analogy for the attitude the current England team seems to carry with it on the pitch. But that could be about to change.
Jimmy Bullard battled through his press conference yesterday barely able to conceal a huge grin and checking his tracksuit badge at regular intervals to make sure it wasn’t all a dream. The Fulham man is in the squad on merit. His return from injury last season gave the Cottagers the impetus to avoid relegation and he has looked in great form at the start of the new campaign.
Unfashionable he may be, in terms of both his choice of club and choice of haircut, but that is just what England need. Fabio Capello is supposed to be picking his best England team and not necessarily his best 11 players. He might finally be about to deliver on one of his manifesto promises.
There are the usual concerns that arise whenever a new player is called up for England, especially from a smaller club. Is Bullard international class? Will he adapt to the new level of football? Is he better than those left out? But these concerns are misplaced on this occasion. He may look like Rocky from the film Mask, but he is in fact a supreme sportsman.
During his lengthy injury lay-off last season he spent a lot of time taking part in angling competitions, and was regularly beating people who represent England at fishing. And Colin Montgomerie’s coach has told him he could easily make it as a professional golfer. In fact, Bullard would probably have adapted to life in the Great Britain synchronised swimming team if he had been called up to the Beijing Olympics.
He happens to be one of those lucky swines who is pretty much brilliant at whatever sport they happen to be playing, and there is no reason why that should exclude international football. What is more, he will do it with a smile on his face and with 100 per cent commitment.