'I could barely hold cutlery' – Manchester United legend Gary Pallister on England nerves

Former Manchester United player Gary Pallister arrives prior to the Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton on 2 October, 2021 at Old Trafford in Manchester, United Kingdom.
(Image credit: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Getting called up to the England squad for the first time must be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking – and for Manchester United (opens in new tab) icon Gary Pallister, the experience left him struggling to eat...

The former defender – who won four Premier League titles with United – earned 22 caps for the Three Lions, receiving his first call-up in 1988.

And, as he tells FourFourTwo in the latest issue available to buy (opens in new tab), he was rather overcome with awe at the company he was keeping while with the national team.

"When I sat down for dinner in the England camp for the first time, with Bryan Robson, Glenn Hoddle, Peter Reid and Peter Shilton on my table, I could hardly hold my knife and fork," Pallister recalls. "These were guys I’d only really seen on telly. Little did I know then that Robbo would go on to become one of my best mates in football – but even when he barely knew me, he was great."

"Before my debut," he continues, "[Robson] said, 'I know you’re nervous, but just keep looking for me; if I’m asking for the ball, just pass it'. He shepherded me through that game and was a calming influence, like he was throughout my career. I work with him every matchday at Old Trafford now in one of the sponsor’s lounges and we’re always taking the piss out of each other. I can hardly believe the journey we’ve been on together since 1988."

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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...