Paul Merson is a footballer and manager, turned football television “pundit”. As a player he played as a forward and later as a playmaking midfielder in a career that lasted from 1985 to 2006. He was born in London and started his football career at Arsenal in 1984, joining the club as an apprentice. He made his 1st team debut for Arsenal on November 22, 1986 and by the 1988-89 season was a regular on the right wing making his debut for the England U21 side, and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year (1989).
At Arsenal he won two Football League winners medals (1988-89, 1990-91), FA Cup (1993), League Cup (1992-93), FA Community Shield (1991) and a UEFA Cup Winners medal (1994), He went on to win UEFA Intertoto Cup (2001) with Aston Villa and helped Portsmouth gain promotion to the Premireship winning Football League Division One (2002–03). He also played 21 times for England including the 1998 World Cup.
At the end of the 1996-97 Premiership campaign, Paul was sold to relegated Middlesbrough in a £5 million deal – making him the most expensive player ever signed by a non-Premiership club. Paul was a highly influential player for Middlesbrough, securing promotion success as Division One runners-up in 1997-98.
In the autumn of 1998, Paul was sold to Aston Villa for £6.75 million. He quickly established himself as a fans favourite due to his creative, flamboyant brand of football. He remained at Aston Villa for nearly five years, helping them reach the 2000 FA Cup final, before he was finally given a free transfer at the end of the 2001-02 season. Paul signed for Division One club Portsmouth, and was instrumental in the club’s promotion to the Premiership in 2002-03.
Wanting to move closer to his home in Sutton Coldfield, Paul decided to leave Portsmouth and was snapped up by Division One side Walsall in summer 2003. Paul was subsequently offered the manager’s spot at Walsall leading a gallant but unsuccessful bid to retain Division One status, eventually being relegated on the final day of the season.
Paul has since decided to forge a career as a media pundit, appearing frequently on Sky Sports’s Gillette Soccer Saturday. Paul is now extremely popular as an after dinner speaker enlightening everyone with his hilarious, sad, interesting anecdotes from a glittering rollercoatser career at the top of football. He has played with and against many of the worlds top footballers.
- Played 425 times for Arsenal, scoring 99 goals.
- Played 48 times Middlesborough, scoring 12 goals.
- Played 117 times for Aston Villa, scoring 18 goals.
- Played 45 times for Portsmouth, scoring12 goals.
- Played 77 times for Walsall, scoring 6 goals.
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Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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