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They will be on opposing sides today as Manchester United travel to Fulham, but Jimmy Bullard and Rio Ferdinand go way back, as the Cottagers midfielder explains.

Like Ferdinand and United's Michael Carrick, Jimmy Bullard began his pro career on the books of West Ham United. But Rio and Jimmy had history way before then.

Schoolboy Days

''I came right through with Rio," explained the Fulham star. "I played a lot of schoolboy football against him. I played for North Kent and he played for Eltham, I think.

"Back then he was quite lean, very tall and thin, and he had this massive ‘high tower' hairstyle on top of his head which made him even taller. But he didn't need his hair to stand out. You could see then he was special.

"I must have played against him half a dozen times and each time I think he played in a different position," Bullard recalled. "As a centre-forward he would drop back, pick up the ball and then embark on these amazing, dizzying runs. Next time, he would be back in defence and playing just as well.

Hammer Adventures

"At West Ham, he was already there as an established first-teamer when I signed," Bullard continued. "He was a bit of a boy in the dressing room," added the Fulham man of Ferdinand, who made his way to from Upton Park to Old Trafford via Leeds United.

"He loved his clothes and his cars and was part of the main squad. There were the likes of Rio, Neil Ruddock and John Moncur. And they were devilish. The wind-ups would go on and Rio was into all that.I remember once all one of them did was hang one of Paolo Di Canio's flamboyant shirts out of the dressing room window. When he came in, Paolo went mad and I think he stormed off to Harry Redknapp's office and declared if it happened again, he would be leaving the club for good!

"I learnt that part of the trade from them, if you like. But being a mere reserve team player I knew my place. If I'd got involved I would have been slapped down and put in my place for sure.†We did a lot of one-on-ones in training at West Ham," added 29-year-old Bullard. "If he was in the mood, Rio was impossible to beat. Absolutely impossible to get past.

"He was quick, even then. And so mobile. And he had so many gears. He would be casually trotting around then whoosh! He was away, and so powerful. What a player. He was always going to make it to the very top.â
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