After coming up through the youth ranks at Billingham Town, he joined Middlebrough when he was 19 for a most unusual transfer fee — a couple of footballs, a team kit and a couple of goal nets. That, of course, was par for the course back in day for any player from a non-league club joining a top division side. Arsenal legend Ian Wright joined Crystal Palace from non-league Greenwich Borough for a set of weights.
When he joined Manchester United, though, he and fellow centre-back Steve Bruce formed the centre-back pairing that wouldn’t just save Sir Alex Ferguson’s job but also set the foundations for a 26-year-run that yielded 13 Premier League titles. The United back four from the early 1990s of right-back Paul Parker, Pallister and Bruce in the middle, and Dennis Irwin at left-back is one of the greatest in the club’s history. The man himself, though, was humble enough to acknowledge that many backlines in the years since have matched, and even bettered their feats.
“Back in those days we didn’t have a big squad and rotation wasn’t such a buzzword, so for the entire season we would have the same back four. It’s actually more of a back-five once you include (goalkepper) Peter Schmeichel. I’ve always felt the best backlines are the ones that play the most time together. Guys like Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Gary Neville and Edwin van der Saar were also great in keeping clean sheets,” he told HT, on the sidelines of a Airtel Rising Stars press conference.