Football: That was the weekend that was - The trivial pursuit of a footballer's life

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The Independent Online
ONE SMALL side-effect of the return of domestic football is the revival of a quiz question that enjoyed brief currency five seasons ago. Which current Premiership player has also appeared in first-class cricket?

The answer is Steve Palmer, then of Ipswich Town, now of Watford, who is also the only Premiership player to have captained the Cambridge University football team.

It was while there, in pursuit of his engineering degree, that Palmer, an accomplished all-rounder, was invited to turn out for the cricket XI at Fenner's in April 1987 - in the company of one M A Atherton. The opposition were a Lancashire side including Graeme Fowler, Neil Fairbrother and Paul Allott.

According to Wisden's account, Palmer kept their company very well. As first change seamer (12-2-41-1) he took the wicket of Fowler (b Palmer 49) in helping restrict Lancashire to 301 and his 18 with the bat (b Allott) was described by the almanac as "a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to pass the follow-on figure."

Quite why this was his only appearance is unknown but, Palmer's sights were always aimed in another direction. "I was advised to take my education as far as I could but I always knew I wanted to be a footballer," he said.

He trained with Cambridge United but it was Ipswich, who offered him a trial, then a contract, which in turn led to the first team, promotion and a dream year in the Premiership (yes, he played at Old Trafford when they lost 9-0).

Given that Ipswich later sold him for pounds 135,000, to a team subsequently relegated to the Second Division, it is fair to say that it was not a path he expected to tread again.

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