An Audience With

Paul Merson

PizzaExpress Live (Birmingham)

Kicking off our new 'Audience With' series, Arsenal, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and England legend Paul Merson takes the audience through the highs and lows of a 21-year playing career, which saw him represent England 21 times and make nearly 600 professional appearances. Known for his unpredictable flair on the pitch, Merson now entertains football fans on Sky’s Soccer Saturday show, on which his pronunciation of players’ names and his rapport with fellow panel members helps make the show so popular with football fans.

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Book tickets for Paul Merson

Two years after starting his Arsenal career as an apprentice in 1984, Paul made his debut for the Gunners against Manchester City and went on to become a key part of George Graham’s successful side during the late 1980’s. His impressive performances resulted in Merson being named PFA Young Player of the Year in 1989.

During his 425 Arsenal appearances, Paul played a key part in the club’s success; winning the Football League Championship twice, the FA Cup, the Football League Cup, and the European Cup Winners' Cup. He made his England debut against Germany in September 1991 and went on to be named as part of the squads for the 1992 European Championships and 1998 World Cup.

In the summer of 1997, Merson left the Gunners to sign for relegated Middlesbrough for a reported fee believed to be £4.5million.

Merson joined Aston Villa in a £6.75m move from Middlesbrough in 1998 and enjoyed 4 superb seasons in claret and blue, bringing smiles to the faces of fans with his silky-smooth skills in the middle of the park.

He went on to become club captain making over 100 appearances and played for the team in 2000 FA Cup Final, the last ever to be held at the original Wembley Stadium.  

Eventually though, the fairytale ended and he was deemed surplus to requirements by Graham Taylor, who had taken over from Merson-admirer John Gregory.

Merson admitted his decision to leave left him cold, primarily because he'd realised during his time in B6 what a massive club Villa were.

He said: "I absolutely loved it at Villa. It was the best part of my career, no doubt. I adored my football at Villa.

"When I left, I was devastated. It was the only time I ever cried when I left a football club.

"I was so, so gutted because I loved the club and loved playing for the club. It's a real good club.

"There was always something happening at Villa. It was lively. It was good.

"You try and tell people in London how big a club Villa is. It's truly massive.

"You talk about sleeping giants and Villa is up there. It's huge.

"I absolutely loved every bit of my time there. But in all honesty, I wasn't aware of the amazing history and tradition when I signed"