Paul Merson is your (unofficial) favourite Pompey midfielder of all-time

It came down to a straight battle between the talented soloist and the commanding conductor.

By Steve Bone
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 10:00 am
A signed Paul Merson shirt - owned by Paul Sexstone, who's among those to vote Merse their favourite Pompey midfielder of all-time
A signed Paul Merson shirt - owned by Paul Sexstone, who's among those to vote Merse their favourite Pompey midfielder of all-time

Robert Prosinecki v Paul Merson. Yes, you had to choose between two players that, even 20 years on, Pompey fans have to pinch themselves to check they really saw both, in successive seasons, wearing royal blue at Fratton Park.

Some 1,475 fans voted - and 55% said Merse the Magician was their favourite. Quite an honour given some of the names that fell by the wayside as the tournament unfolded.

Kevin Dillon, Mick Kennedy, Alan McLoughlin, Lassana Diarra, Sulley Muntari ... they were all in the initial group of 50 names put forward for this unscientific contest and they and many others were voted out along the way.

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More recent midfield maestros, like Pedro Mendes and Gary O'Neil, reached the semi-finals but when Merson and Prosinecki avoided each other in the last four, most were pleased, and most knew they'd end up in the final.

That final, though was difficult to call. Would the man who led Pompey to the first division title in 2002-03 win the vote? Or would the crown go to a player who also played for Real Madrid and Barcelona and who did things with a football that no Fratton fan had ever seen done on their turf before, nor since?

It was the former, as it turned out. Merse led from the start - just as he did in 2002-03. It was never likely to be the landslide that had got both favourites through some of their earlier rounds but 55%-45% is, by Brexit standards if nothing else, quite a clear majority.

We're unsure if Merse will be made aware of this vote and the fact he's won it, or, if he does find out, what he will make of it. But if he were to look down the list of names who were involved, he should be proud of his place as the winner.

This was the third of five such votes we're running throughout the season and we're grateful to the thousands of Twitter types who have got involved by voting for their favourites and debating why Player X can't hold a candle to Player Y.

David James won the keeper vote and Linvoy Primus was named your favourite defender earlier in the season - and look out between now and the end of the season for similar tournaments for wide midfielders/wingers and for strikers. It'll be a hell of a fantasy five-a-side Blues team we end up with!

Here, then, are some of the comments made by fans as they nailed their colours to the Merson Mast or the Prosinecki Post - and below these are the rundown of the tournament and who beat who.

Paul Sexstone: I only have one signed shirt of a Pompey player (pictured at the top of the article). That is from the Magic Man. What Merse did that season overall beats the majesty of Prosinecki, just, for me. Really should get it framed!

Steve Wilson: What Merse did was far greater in terms of galvanising an entire club and city. Class player and talisman and although Prosi was incredible to watch, just not sure he was as bothered about the end goal. That promotion season is still my favourite of all the seasons. What a side.

Josh Perry: In fairness, harder to be bothered about the end goal when you're playing alongside Neil Barrett and pinging balls out wide to Courtney Pitt. Oh and scoring hat-tricks just so the Zamperini led defence could blow it in injury time. Merse had a stacked team & experienced manager.

Jeff Harris: As much as I loved watching Prosinecki, that season with Merson as captain ignited a city from the slumbers into a force to be reckoned with we went from playing mediocre football to playing teams off the pitch week in week out oh to have that once again.

Dan Barrett: Prosinecki still one of my favourite footballers too see live, so so good. That said, Merse ran the middle and lifted a team around him to a higher standard than some of them arguably were. For me, Merse for what he did for the team, Pros for the outstanding individual talent.

Vaughn Medway: Prosinecki was the better player, but Merson made the players around him better, we wouldn't have gone up without Merson, so that's why I've voted for him.

GD Hawkes: Two magicians. As my grandad would say ‘not a cigarette paper between them’. Deserves a 50/50 tie.

Adrian Thompson: So so difficult to choose between these two! Think I’m going to set up another Twitter account so I can put a vote in for each. For now, Merse just edges it for the success he drove our team on to achieve. Prosinecki was sensational to watch though!

Andy Harris: Surprised myself and went for Merse. Extra points because he was playing alongside that incredible team. Probably the best season of football I’ve seen at Fratton.

How the tournament panned out

The initial list of 50

Bill Bagley

Eyal Berkovic

Terry Brisley

Michael Brown

Chris Burns

Brian Bromley

Sean Davis

Shaun Derry

Papa Bouba Diop

Bobby Doyle

Gareth Evans

Amdy Faye

Johnny Gordon

Micky Hazard

Barry Horne

Richard Hughes

Sammy Igoe

Bobby Kellard

Niko Kranjcar

Bjorn Kristensen

Martin Kuhl

Joe Laidlaw

Stefani Miglioranzi

Joe Morrell

David Norris

Jamie O'Hara

Jeff Peron

Nigel Quashie

Gary Roberts

Tim Sherwood

Fitzroy Simpson

Alexei Smertin

George Smith

Thomas Thogersen

Ben Thompson

Michalis Vlachos

Lassana Diarra

Kevin Dillon

Michael Doyle

Mick Kennedy

Albie McCann

Alan McLoughlin

Pedro Mendes

Paul Merson

Sulley Muntari

Gary O'Neil

Norman Piper

Robert Prosinecki

Mick Tait

Neil Webb

The last 32

Joe Laidlaw 22.9% v Papa Diop 77.1%

Richard Hughes 72.3% Sammy Igoe 27.7%

Mick Tait 64.3% Amdy Faye 35.7%

Kevin Dillon 85.7% Norman Piper 14.3%

Neil Webb 28.9% Gary O'Neil 71.1%

Lassana Diarra 83.4% David Norris 16.6%

Alan McLoughlin 70.2% Gareth Evans 29.8%

Robert Prosinecki 95.8% Barry Horne 4.2%

Bobby Doyle 21.3% Mick Kennedy 78.7%

Alexei Smertin 43.4% Gary Roberts 56.6%

Michael Doyle 69.6% Sean Davis 30.4%

Niko Kranjcar 56.6% Sulley Muntari 43.4%

Pedro Mendes 97% Joe Morrell 3%

Ben Thompson 70.7% Bjorn Kristensen 29.3%

Jamie O'Hara 53.6% Martin Kuhl 46.4%

Paul Merson 94.6% Albie McCann 5.4%

Last 16

Niko Kranjcar 28.6% Paul Merson 71.4%

Gary O'Neil 80.3% Kevin Dillon 19.7%

Jamie O'Hara 48.4% Richard Hughes 51.6%

Ben Thompson 9.4% Lassana Diarra 90.6%

Mick Tait 38.7% Michael Doyle 61.3%

Papa Diop 47.5% Mick Kennedy 52.5%

Gary Roberts 11.5% Robert Prosinecki 88.5%

Alan McLoughlin 48.6% Pedro Mendes 51.4%

Last 8

Pedro Mendes 65.6% Mick Kennedy 34.4%

Gary O'Neil 70.4% Michael Doyle 29.6%

Richard Hughes 11.8% Robert Prosinecki 88.2%

Lassana Diarra 40.7% Paul Merson 59.3%


Gary O'Neil 25.5% Paul Merson 74.5%

Pedro Mendes 33.9% Robert Prosinecki 66.1%


Paul Merson 55.3% Robert Prosinecki 44.7%

* If you're not all polled out, follow @Pompey_Goals on Twitter who will next week (Jan 14) be starting polls to establish fans' favourite Pompry manager.