Football: Palmer tackles the pain barrier: Wednesday's beanpole back faces Arsenal talisman in Sunday's Coca-Cola Cup final

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The Independent Online
CARLTON PALMER had stitches removed yesterday from a foot wound inflicted in Izmir, has pain-killing injections before each match and does not expect to train before the weekend.

Hardly the ideal preparation for Sunday's Coca-Cola Cup final, in which Sheffield Wednesday's converted centre-back may be marking Arsenal's turbo-charged talisman, Ian Wright, but Palmer has an additional incentive to play through the pain barrier at Wembley.

Two years ago, Palmer missed Wednesday's victory over Manchester United in the League Cup's Rumbelows incarnation because of suspension. He received a winner's medal for having played throughout the competition, but it was not the same.

'I said then that I hoped I'd get another chance, but I wasn't too hopeful and certainly didn't expect it to come so soon,' he said. 'My family all came on that occasion and they'll be there again, so I've got to play this time.'

Now an England regular in his 'old' position in midfield, Palmer will be up against several international colleagues on Sunday. Friends, too, although the prospect of two Wembley meetings (Wednesday also play Arsenal in the FA Cup final) was a taboo subject on the recent World Cup trip to Turkey.

'Ian Wright is a good mate and this week I'll probably ring Paul Merson, whose wife is about to have a baby,' Palmer said. 'But we won't talk about the final. If you're too friendly you go into it with the wrong attitude.' What of the problems posed by Wright? 'I prefer to think about how hard it'll be for them to handle Paul Warhurst, or David Hirst.'

Warhurst, who is expected to recover from a groin injury to play, has won recognition from Graham Taylor in his new role as a striker. Palmer, though stimulated by his own switch, hopes eventually to return to midfield. However, he could well have missed out on both finals had the change not been forced on the manager, Trevor Francis. 'If I hadn't been playing centre-back I probably wouldn't have got through the season - my pelvic strain and hamstring wouldn't have stood up to midfield work.

'I'm now playing matches to get fit instead of getting fit to play matches. I probably won't train until Saturday - but I'll be there against Arsenal.' In the meantime, he is keenly awaiting tomorrow's announcement of the England squad to play the Netherlands. Not just for his own sake, but because he predicts a recall for Chris Waddle - 'by public demand'.

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