Pompey Hall of Fame: Magic man Merson

Paul Merson applauds the Fratton faithful during the Morecambe game. Picture: Joe Pepler
Paul Merson applauds the Fratton faithful during the Morecambe game. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Paul Merson is to be inducted into Pompey’s Hall of Fame tomorrow evening.

We are taking a daily look at each of the four players scheduled to be recognised at the Fratton Park ceremony.
Having made his debut for Arsenal during the 1986-87 campaign, Paul Merson went on to spend 11 seasons at Highbury.

Under the management of George Graham, he established himself as a key performer in the Gunners’ successes of the 1990s, winning the title twice, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.

After 327 league appearances and 78 goals for the North London club, Merson made the switch to Middlesbrough in 1997.

He gained instant success at The Riverside by helping Boro earn promotion to the Premier League and also claiming a League Cup runners-up medal in 1997-98.

Next, Merson moved to Aston Villa, where he was made club captain, leading them to the 2000 FA Cup final, only to lose to Chelsea.

By the time he dropped into Division One to link-up with Pompey, the midfielder had 21 England caps and was aged 34.

It proved to be a masterful piece of management by Harry Redknapp as Merson became an integral part of the Blues side which stormed to the title.

Handed the captain’s armband, Merson established himself as a massive favourite among the Fratton faithful during what proved to be his first and only season on the south coast.

In his role as an attacking midfielder, he was a joy to watch, demonstrating a vision which enabled him to play the killer pass.

Without question, the presence of the veteran was key to the team’s success as they reached the top flight.

Merson became the first Pompey captain to lift a league title since Steve Aizlewood 20 years earlier, as skipper of Bobby Campbell’s Division Three side.

Such was Pompey’s dominance during that Redknapp campaign, they won the league by six points, scoring a staggering 97 goals in the process.

For most Pompey fans of a certain age it proved to be one of the most exciting seasons they had witnessed and one to stay in the memory.

Merson made a lasting mark during his 48 appearances and 12 goals, many of which proved invaluable in the promotion run.

Unfortunately, a prior engagement means the former England international is unable to appear at tomorrow’s induction.

However, he visited Fratton Park in February for the fixture with Morecambe and has since been presented with his Hall of Fame award.

Appearances: 48

Goals: 12

Debut: August 10, 2002 v Nottingham Forest (H)

Last game: May 4, 2003 v Bradford (A)