FORMER Arsenal and England star Paul Merson made his footballing comeback on Sunday – for Whitton Athletic in the Chiswick & District Sunday League.
Merson, who also turned out for Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Portsmouth in a glittering career, drinks in the same Whitton pub as the Athletic players and has got to know them well.
Whitton manager Chris Green did not miss a trick and tapped up the 43 year old about pulling his boots back on six years after last kicking a ball competitively, and was delighted he agreed.
Merson made his bow for Athletic in Sunday's Intermediate Division clash against West Ealing (pictured) but could not inspire his new team-mate as they went down to a 6-2 defeat, despite goals from Marcus Green and Louis Harrison.
Green said: “Merse played the whole 90 minutes, although he was breathing out of his backside a bit at the end, but he really enjoyed it and said he wants to play for us again.
“He lives in Birmingham but comes down to London to see his kids and do his Soccer Saturday work, so when he is available, we will bring him in again.
“Only a few of the lads knew about it, and they were giving me grief when I turned up late, so I told them it was because I had to pick someone up, and in strolls Paul Merson.
“They were quite shocked, as were the ref and the opposition, who didn't believe us at first, but I think it backfired on us as West Ealing upped their game 100 per cent.
“Perhaps we thought we would stroll it too with Merse in our side. But he did hit the bar three times, and hit another spectacular shot which, an inch either side of the keeper, would have given him no chance, but it went straight down his throat.”