In today’s transfer market, teenagers can command huge fees in the £multi-million bracket when moving from one club to another. It’s not as if they need to be bloodied that much in the cut-n-thrust of first-team football either. However, back in the day things were simpler, much simpler.
Take that time that Middlesbrough brought Gary Pallister to Ayresome Park at the opening of the July transfer window in 1984 from Billingham Town. Billingham is a town in County Durham with a population of around 35,000. The town’s football side play their games at Bedford Terrace and in the Ebac Northern League.
The move from Bedford Terrace to Ayresome Park took Pallister from non-league football to Division 2 where Boro were mixing it with the likes of Leeds United, Grimsby Town and Chelsea. His first appearance for the Teessiders came on Bonfire Night 1988 with a 90-minute run-out in the First Division, the precursor of the Premier League, which ended in a 3-0 defeat.
In today’s world, where deals have astronomical zeroes attached to them, Garry Pallister came to Middlesbrough on the relative cheap. All that Boro had to do to convince Billingham Town to let loose their prize asset was to offer the kind of exchange usually seen between islands in the South Pacific with shells being the bartered currency.
This first transfer fee for the future England star was a set of kit, a string bag full of balls and a net for Billingham’s goal. Just take a moment to sit back and imagine that this training ground smash-and-grab, where anything laying around was effectively added to the deal, sparked an international career of 22 England games.
Pallister went on to make three appearances for Boro before a big-money move to Manchester United for whom he made 315 appearances. Nine years after leaving the Teesside outfit, Pallister returned on the back of a £2.5 million fee, making a further 56 appearances for the club before retiring.
All that for the cost of a set of kit, a string bag full of balls and a net for Billingham’s goal.