HOW do you solve a problem like Jimmy Bullard?
Where once he was the answer, now he has become the question.
His signing from Hull City had once looked a long way away from happening, mainly because it appeared he was too good to be plying his trade here on a permanent basis.
But he spent Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to bogey side Watford warming the bench. And rightly so, given his current form.
So is it a coincidence Jewell’s inability to get the best out of our on-pitch orchestrator has seen the music stop? It is not the sole reason, but there is no doubt it has had a part to play.
When I first saw the curly-haired one in an Ipswich shirt I thought: ‘why is he playing him nearer our goal than theirs?’ For me, the Bullard I remembered was Wigan’s answer to Frank Lampard, not Claude Makelele. But Jewell has favoured playing him in a ‘quarterback’ role, and for me, this has always been a mistake.
How much can Bullard effect a game from his own half? He has neither the tackling ability, strength or aerial prowess to do that job better than the one man we’re stupid to continue ignoring: Luke Hyam. Tenacious, strong in the tackle, a good marker and able to win a header are all part and parcel of the youngster’s game that aren’t in Bullard’s make-up.
I sat in press conferences last season, including that horrific 5-1 defeat to Norwich, where Jewell bemoaned the need for a defensive midfielder to protect the defence - then, he said the goals would stop leaking. In the summer he failed to land one and has instead tried to masquerade Jimmy Bullard as a Shaun Derry.
But in Bullard, we have a player who could rediscover his best if dropped off a striker’s shoulder, almost given a free role to float in the space and create and score.
Ahead of a visit to Barnsley on Saturday (13th, and four straight wins), just imagine a 4-2-3-1 with Andrews and Hyam as the two and Emmanuel-Thomas, Bullard and Josh Carson as the three in front. Now there is a team with a bit of pace, flair and a solid look, to get us out of this mess.
<n>THE FA Cup third round draw sees us travel to Bullard’s former employers, Hull City, on January 8/9. Hardly an inspiring tie but right now I’d prefer not to be the focus of a potential banana skin and a decent cup run could be just the confidence-breeder we need.