How Paul Merson flew to Barbados during Portsmouth's title-winning season - only to get rumbled by Harry Redknapp's best mate

Former Pompey favourite Paul Merson hilariously admitted he lied to Harry Redknapp so he could fly to Barbados during the Blues’ 2002-03 First Division-winning campaign – only to get rumbled by the ‘gaffer’s best mate’.
Paul MersonPaul Merson
Paul Merson

Merson, who made 44 appearances and scored 12 goals during his one season at Fratton Park, recalled the incident when he appeared on the Sky Football Show.

Speaking to Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Souness and host Dave Jones, the former England international said he fancied a break that January and spotted an opportunity in the fixture scheduled to do so.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yet, rather than tell the manager the truth, Merson told Redknapp he needed to go to Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance Clinic for his drinking and gambling issues.

The white lie back-fired, however, after the Blues skipper ran into one of his boss’ closest friends – not that Redknapp who too bothered!

Merson revealed: 'We'd just been beaten by Man Utd in the FA Cup 4-1 – they were top of the Prem and we were top of the Championship.

‘They beat us 4-1, but it weren't a bad game as far it goes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘And then I always look at the fixtures, I was one of them, I could always tell you the next 10 games, whatever club I was at.

Harry Redknapp







Robin Jones/Digital South

m; 07816 672061.... tel; 023 80444648Harry Redknapp







Robin Jones/Digital South

m; 07816 672061.... tel; 023 80444648
Harry Redknapp Robin Jones/Digital South m; 07816 672061.... tel; 023 80444648

‘You know, that's what it was all about, the fixtures, and I had it all worked out, cos I’d seen the team we were supposed to play in two weeks were still playing in the FA Cup so we didn't have a game.

‘So I booked a holiday to Barbados, I went to see (Redknapp), and I said: “Harry, is it all right if I go away next week cos the team we're supposed to be playing after this game are out of the FA Cup and I've got a problem with my gambling and my drinking so I need to go to Tony Adams' treatment centre if that's okay?”

‘And he said: “Not a problem, Merse. You go away for a week, be back a week Monday for the next game”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘Now, there was nothing wrong with me. I'd already booked Barbados, so I went to Barbados.

‘I was walking along the beach the next day and all of a sudden I bumped into a bloke and we're having a chat and all of a sudden (he asks) “Do you reckon you'll go up? This and that, and I say: “Maybe, you never know, if we hang on”.

“But I don't know, but he's Harry's best mate, he's the gaffer's best mate.

‘I just walk off and he goes back to his villa and rings Harry up and goes: “All right, Harry, how are you?" He says: "Yeah, I'm good, how are you?" and he went: "Yeah, just been with one of your players".

“And he says: "Who's that?" "Paul Merson!"

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘Harry's turned round to him and gone: "What's wrong with you?"

‘He thought he was in treatment with me!

‘He (the bloke) went: “No, he's in Barbados!"

‘And he (Harry) never said a word.

'I came back, so brown, you know, it was January, and he just got on with it, Harry.

‘Unbelievable manager.’

Merson, who won two league titles, an FA Cup and the European Cup winners’ Cup with Arsenal, worked under some great manager during a professional career than spanned 21 years.

However, he said his Pompey manager was ‘one of the best’ he’d played for.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Merson added: 'The thing with Harry, I get really fed up with people when they go: “Oh, Harry's a wheeler-dealer”.

‘He's not a wheeler-dealer. He's one of the best manager's I've played for.

‘Tactically, he was phenomenal, the amount he knew.

‘You don't manage that many games in football if you ain't great.

‘He was a great manager. He could see a game so quickly and at half-time we wouldn't mess about.

‘He'd go bang, bang, change the team, change players.

‘And he was a phenomenal manager.’